The Medium and the Anti-Union Message: Forced Listening and Captive Audience Meetings

48 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2007


Employer captive audience meetings (CAMs) are a rare example in which people in a democratic society are forced to listen to opinions of others with which they may strongly disagree. Employees are not chained to a post, but they are nevertheless economically compelled to listen to their employer's anti-union opinions. The uniqueness of being compelled to listen makes the CAM a powerful signaling device through which the message of economic vulnerability is transmitted to employees. The medium (CAMs) is its own message, and it should be regulated as such. The author explores the extent to which this approach is reflected in current labor law, and finds that the principle approach to CAMs in Canadian labor law is to treat CAMs as "message neutral" event that can "color" the content of the speech made in the meeting. He argues for an approach that treats the CAM as an independent signaling device. This approach would refocus the labor boards' attention on the question of whether CAMs interfere with the formation of unions, and whether permitting employer CAMs advance sound labor policies that are consistent with the values underling the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Keywords: labor law, labour law, captive audience, forced listening, canadian, union organizing, union certification, expression

JEL Classification: J50, J51, J53, J58, K31

Suggested Citation

Doorey, David J., The Medium and the Anti-Union Message: Forced Listening and Captive Audience Meetings. Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2007, Available at SSRN:

David J. Doorey (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3


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