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PSN on March 6, 2008 - 8:21am
Workers often face a no-win situation: they are forced into employer-sponsored meetings where they are harangued with the employer's political views or anti-union propaganda and, if they actually speak out with their own opinions, they get punished or even fired.
With a new bill, HB 4132, which was approved by West Virginia's House of Delegates last week, at least employees would have the option not to attend such mandatory meetings without being fired. Employers would have the free speech right to hold the meetings and employees would have the free speech right to skip them.
New Jersey was the first state to approve a "Worker Freedom" law back in 2006, although the Colorado legislature approved it as well that same year, only to see it vetoed by their governor. Chambers in New Hampshire, Michigan and Vermont have all approved Worker Freedom bills as well, all part of the increasing movement by states to find ways to support stronger labor rights given the existing weaknesses of federal labor law.
In a country that talks about free speech a lot, it's often forgotten that the Constitution ends at the corporate door, unless legislators act to protect it. As West Virginia Delegate Mike Caputo, a sponsor of the measure, said, "Now I don't want to take anybody's free speech away, and the employer certainly has that right [to hold meetings]. But in free speech, a person should have the right to walk away as well."