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Captive Audience Meetings and Forced Listening: Lessons for Canada from the American Experience

Posted: 29 Apr 2010 Last revised: 14 Apr 2011

Sara Slinn

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

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Date Written: December 15, 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

Suggested Citation

Slinn, Sara, Captive Audience Meetings and Forced Listening: Lessons for Canada from the American Experience (December 15, 2008). Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, Vol. 63, No. 4, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Sara Slinn (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario
(416) 736-5052 (Phone)

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