PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Two business groups are trying to stop Oregon’s Worker Freedom Act from taking effect law on Jan. 1. The law allows workers to skip meetings in which employers “counter union rhetoric and provide information to employees about the realities of a unionized workplace, including the requirement to pay dues and the possibility of being forced out on strike,” says the federal court action.
The action is brought by Associated Oregon Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The law also will allow workers to skip meetings about politics and religion during work hours, without retribution. Associated Oregon Industries and the Chamber of Commerce claim the act stifles employers’ free speech. They sued the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local No. 296.
Supporters say the law, SB 519 in Oregon’s 2009 Legislature, is a response to workers’ claims that employers fired them over disagreements on religion or unions.
Associated Oregon and the Chamber of Commerce claim the law is part of organized labor’s “state-by-state attack on federally protected speech rights.”
The law is based on a draft version, the Worker Freedom From Intimidation Act, penned by the AFL-CIO, according to the complaint.
“Lest there be any confusion,” the lawsuit states, “SB 519 was drafted, introduced, lobbied for and ultimately passed to prevent employers from holding mandatory meetings with employees to discuss whether employees should join a union.”
The plaintiffs claim the law will harm an unnamed member that is “the target of an aggressive organizing campaign undertaken by defendant Local 296.”
The union has filed 20 unfair labor practice charges against the member company with the National Labor Relations Board, according to the federal complaint.
The plaintiffs claim union members trespassed, distributed handbills, organized group pickets, passed out buttons, contacted employees at home, held group meetings in the evening away from the job site, and threatened immigration raids.
In response, the member company has held multiple mandatory meetings with its employees, “to both counter union rhetoric and provide information to employees about the realities of a unionized workplace, including the requirement to pay dues and the possibility of being forced out on strike,” Associate Oregon claims.
It claims that it needs to hold the mandatory meetings to “ensure that all employees have the benefit of hearing the employer’s views,” the lawsuit states.The plaintiffs say the law is unconstitutional. They are represented by Scott Oborne, with Jackson Lewis