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Union-backed Illinois measure limiting business meetings called unconstitutional

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(The Center Square) – A measure prohibiting employers from holding so-called captive audience meetings for their employees is ready to be sent to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The Teamsters union urged Pritzker to sign Senate Bill 3649, saying the bill would ban mandatory attendance to employer-sponsored presentations filled with what they said would be anti-union propaganda designed to discourage organization efforts.

“Employers routinely use corporate indoctrination to foster an environment conducive to coercion whenever they find out about a union organizing drive,” Teamsters Joint Council 25 President Thomas W. Stiede said in a statement. “The Worker Freedom of Speech Act safeguards workers’ rights to opt out of these meetings without fear of repercussions.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, said it doesn’t matter when or where the meetings are held.

State Sen. Jil Tracey, R-Quincy, said the measure goes too far, limiting what an employer can require.

“You’re trying to thwart an employer’s business, his schedule and it goes far beyond what should be allowed in interfering with the workplace,” Tracey said.

There are exemptions. The measure does not impact the Illinois General Assembly, political organizations and specified not-for-profits, except for 501(c)3 organizations.

“The ones that are exempted are the ones that engage in advocacy,” Peters said.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said some 501(c)3 organizations do conduct advocacy.

“If an organization’s focus has a religious intent and people are hired into that with that being known, that is separate than a Hobby Lobby forcing people to have to be within religious meetings,” Peters said.

Plummer said the measure is unworkable, unconstitutional and poor public policy.

“Let’s work on good public policy that will grow this state, grow our economy and help our employees,” Plummer said. “Let’s not play politics with unconstitutional legislation that’s going to get thrown out in the court of law.”

The measure has yet to be sent to Pritzker. If enacted, the fine for violating the prohibition would be $1,000 per instance.

A similar measure is being challenged in Minnesota federal court by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. They argue the Minnesota measure “violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by discriminating against employers’ viewpoints on political matters, by regulating the content of employers’ communications with their employees, and by chilling and prohibiting employer speech.”

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