CO Worker Freedom Act Would Give Workers the Right to Walk Away from Captive Audience Meetings

Profile picture for 13845
Teamsters Local 455
|February 22, 2024

Workers at a Colorado construction company were eager to form a union in their workplace to address wages, hours and working conditions. They'd collected authorization cards from more than 80 percent of the workers to file for a union election. But when their employer got wind of an organizing campaign, it sent in its paid union buster and the "captive audience meetings" began -- mandatory two-and-a-half hour meetings where the anti-union consultant threw out nonsense and innuendo intended to dissuade workers from protecting their own interests. Twice a day. For three weeks.

"These captive audience meetings demoralized those who hoped to be able to make changes, pitted people against each other...and led the team (of workers) to believe that they could not possibly seek to improve their workplace through organizing," wrote one worker in a statement to Colorado elected officials. "Captive audience meetings like the ones myself and my coworkers were subjected to serve only to disenfranchise employees from improving their own lives, their communities, and the company, whose success is dependent on (their) labor." 

But HB24-1260, "The Worker Freedom Act," sponsored by House Majority Leader Monica Duran, Representative Tim Hernandez and Senator Jessie Danielson, and introduced last week, will give workers the right to walk away from "captive audience" meetings of any kind -- religious, political or anti-union -- if those mandatory meetings don't have anything to do with their job tasks or their performance. The legislation is supported by Teamsters Local 455 and 19 other labor organizations in Colorado. 

 Authors of the legislation say "captive audience meetings are an affront to worker freedom and no employee should be retaliated against for not attending or participating." States including Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New York and Oregon already have similar laws; another seven states introduced such legislation in 2023. 

The bill: 

  • Protects workers' free speech by allowing them to opt out of "captives," as they are known in the labor community, without fear of retaliation or financial harm;
  • Will require a posting of employees' rights in every workplace;
  • Allows workers to bring claims of violations in district court to hold employers accountable; and
  • Attaches penalties -- including fines of up to $10,000 per occurrence, per employee -- if the employer violates the law. Other penalties include worker reinstatement, damages, court costs and attorney fees. 

"What I'm most proud of is the enforcement piece," said Tammy Munoz, Teamsters Local 455's Political Liaison. "This law will have teeth." Munoz was in a meeting of the Local's Political Field Coordinators on Valentine's Day when news broke that the legislation had been formally introduced. Next, the bill will move for review by the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, Munoz said. 

Dean Modecker, Teamsters Local 455 Secretary-Treasurer, said this bill is crucial to workers who exercise their federally-protected rights to form a union in their workplaces. "We all know that half of union drives that stall out happen because employers jam pack their employees into these meetings with the absolute intent to scare them. We need this law and we are incredibly proud of the work Tammy Munoz, our political field coordinators and our elected officials have done to get this introduced." 

Said Modecker: "Now we're going to need an army of Teamsters and other union members to make sure our lawmakers pass this into law."




Leave a comment
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.