Captive Audience Meetings and Forced Listening: Lessons for Canada from the American Experience
York University - Osgoode Hall Law School
December 15, 2008
Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, Vol. 63, No. 4, 2008
Widespread adoption of mandatory representation votes and express protection of employer speech invite employer anti-union campaigns during union organizing, including employer-held captive audience meetings. Therefore, the problem of whether and how to restrict employers’ captive audience communications during union organizing is of renewed relevance in Canada. Captive meetings are a long-standing feature of American labour relations. This article considers how treatment of captive meetings evolved in the U.S., including the notion of employee choice; the “marketplace of ideas” view of expression dominating the American debate; and the central role of the contest between constitutional and statutory rights. It also considers the concept of “forced listening” and the associated Captive Audience doctrine in U.S. constitutional law and considers its possible application to captive audience meetings and the Charter definition of free expression. Finally, it offers suggestions about how Canadian labour law can benefit from lessons learned from the American experience.
Keywords: Captive Audience Meeting, Captive Audience Meetings, Employer Speech, Union Organizing Campaigns, Employee Free Choice, Labor Law, Unfair Labor Practice, First Amendment, Forced Listening
JEL Classification: J50, J53, K31
Date posted: April 29, 2010 ; Last revised: April 14, 2011