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The Future of NLRB Doctrine on Captive Audience Speeches

Paul M. Secunda

Marquette University - Law School

November 10, 2010

Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 87, No. 1, 2012
Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 10-37

Under the National Labor Relations Act, as interpreted by the courts and the National Labor Relations Board (Board) over the last sixty years, employers have been permitted to give captive audience speeches at work to employees contemplating unionization. Employees must attend such meetings, cannot question the employer representative, and may not have the union come to the workplace to present opposing views. Not surprisingly, these speeches are one of the most effective anti-union weapons that employers currently have in their arsenal. Now that the Board has both a quorum and a sizable Democratic majority, this Essay considers if, and how, the Obama Board might limit the rights of employers to engage in captive audience speeches during union organizational campaigns.

If the issue arises in a representation election case, the Board might expand the Peerless Plywood doctrine to prohibit captive audience speeches for a longer period of time before an election. On the other hand, If a union raises the captive audience speech issue in a case alleging a Section 8(a)(1) unfair labor practice, the Board might reexamine its precedent under Section 8(c) and consider when exactly employer captive audience speech tactics become coercive under Exchange Parts and Gissel. This approach would require a more searching inquiry into the content of the speech. It might also lead the Board to adopt a presumption of employer coercion where employees are unable to leave such a meeting or ask questions of the employer’s speaker. An employer would be able to rebut such a presumption under a modified form of the Struksnes polling standards that would make clear the purpose of such meetings and assure employees against retaliation for not adhering to the employer’s anti-union message.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: NLRB, Captive Audience Speech, Section 8(c), free speech, union elections, ULP, Peerless Plywood, Gissel, Exchange Parts

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Date posted: October 17, 2010 ; Last revised: November 13, 2010

Suggested Citation

Secunda, Paul M., The Future of NLRB Doctrine on Captive Audience Speeches (November 10, 2010). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 87, No. 1, 2012; Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 10-37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1692959

Contact Information

Paul M. Secunda (Contact Author)
Marquette University - Law School ( email )
Eckstein Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States
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