U.S. Chamber Challenges Pro-Union Oregon Law Limiting Employers' Free Speech Rights

Monday, December 21, 2009 - 7:00pm

Legislation Unconstitutionally Curtails Employers' Rights to Counter Union Disinformation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Associated Oregon Industries filed a lawsuit arguing that a new Oregon law unconstitutionally eliminates an employer's right to conduct mandatory meetings with employees to rebut union rhetoric and provide information about the drawbacks of a unionized workplace. The law, known as SB 519, is scheduled to become effective January 1, 2010. The case is Associated Oregon Industries and Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Brad Avakian and Laborers' International Union of North America, Local No. 296.

"Organized labor hasn't been able to muster the votes or the public support to pass Card Check, so they've moved on to 'Plan B' to muzzle employers during union organizing drives," said Steven Law, chief legal officer and general counsel for the U.S. Chamber. "Just like Card Check, this law flies in the face of our country's democratic values."

In its lawsuit, the Chamber argues that federal law preempts the Oregon law, which runs counter to 50 years of federal protection for employers' rights to hold mandatory meetings to rebut labor leaders' rhetoric about unionizing. The Chamber's lawsuit also alleges that SB 519 violates employers' speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Oregon is the first state in the nation to pass such a law, which is based on model legislation drafted by the AFL-CIO in an effort to launch a state-by-state attack on federally protected employer speech. While Oregon may be the only state that has signed legislation, the AFL-CIO has introduced similar laws in numerous other states.

"This legislation is organized labor's first salvo in an apparent state-by-state assault on federally protected employer speech," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber's public policy law firm. "This law tramples employers' speech rights and gives organized labor an unprecedented advantage in unionizing campaigns."

NCLC is the public policy law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that advocates fair treatment of business in the courts and before regulatory agencies.

The U.S. Chamber is the world's largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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