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Devil in Details of Employer Gag Rule Legislation

The title of the legislation seems innocent enough: Prohibiting certain employer communications about political or religious matters. But the bill describes political communications in such a way as to squelch important discussions between employer and employees.

SB 5446/HB 1528 defines political matters as that which is directly related to candidates elected officials ballot propositions legislation elections or campaigns political parties and political social community and labor or other mutual aid organizations – note the prohibition against talking to employees about labor organizations.

We question whether its prudent for the Legislature to move forward on one of the most divisive labor-management issues when there is so much need and opportunity to work together on more pressing issues said AGCs chief lobbyist Rick Slunaker. It is even more puzzling when you consider that the US Supreme Court already struck down a California version of this legislation ruling that federal law preempts state law in these areas.

The bill also allows individual employees to sue meaning a contractor could face several lawsuits from multiple employees. Obviously this would have a chilling effect on employer-employee communications Slunaker said.

AGC is opposing the measure as part of a broad business coalition.

SB 5446 is in the Senate Committee on Commerce Labor and Consumer Protection and is sponsored by Senators Prentice Kohl-Welles Keiser McDermott Fairley Franklin Kline Murray Ranker Tom Shin Regala Hobbs Kauffman Pridemore McAuliffe Kastama Hatfield Oemig Fraser and Jacobsen..

HB 1528 is in the House Commerce and Labor Committee. It is sponsored by Representatives Sells Conway Green Kenney Hasegawa Miloscia Morrell Van De Wege Cody Appleton Dickerson OBrien Simpson Chase Williams Moeller Goodman Ormsby Nelson Eddy Hunt Dunshee Roberts McCoy Blake Kirby Jacks Hurst Wood Takko Ericks Campbell Seaquist Kagi Haigh White Flannigan Rolfes Wallace Quall Sullivan Darneille Orwall Finn Morris Hudgins and Santos.

Contact Christine Swanson AGC Government Affairs Manager at 360-352-5000 with questions or comments.

Copies of the bills and summaries can be viewed via the Washington State Legislature Bill Information website.

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