RHODE ISLAND: Captive-audience meetings for me, but not for thee 

RHODE ISLAND: Captive-audience meetings for me, but not for thee 

RHODE ISLAND: Captive-audience meetings for me, but not for thee 

Sometimes, the irony is thick. Case in point, recent developments in Rhode Island, where Teamsters Local 251 has bullied Senate Bill 2785 through the legislature that would prevent an employer from holding a so-called “captive-audience meeting” in order to inform its workers about union representation.  

Union leaders are rightfully concerned that hearing the truth will make employees much less likely to join. And they should know because captive audience meetings have long been a staple of the union playbook for decades. 

In leftist-dominated states throughout the country, lawmakers have passed legislation authorizing unions to meet with newly hired public employees to make an unchallenged sales pitch about union membership. In these sessions, unions have been caught lying, misleading, bullying, and intimidating people into signing away their Constitutional rights

Our government systems have been hijacked by unions for politicization and money laundering. This affects not just bureaucrats but educators, corrections officers, Department of Transportation workers, and public employees of every kind, who increasingly find their autonomy undercut by unscrupulous union practices.  

These practices aim to maximize membership to support a partisan political machine financially. 

There is a counterbalance to the union’s war to capitalize on taxpayers off the backs of public employees, and that’s where you will find the Freedom Foundation.  

We’ve filed numerous lawsuits in Washington and California challenging state practices that grant union representatives exclusive unfettered access to new employees that clearly contradict the principles of free speech and informed choice. 

We’ve worked with several public employees who were lied to, bullied, or tricked into signing up for union membership during a mandatory meeting upon being hired. At times, we’ve learned about an orientation meeting and stood outside the public building to speak with people as they walked in, warning them not to sign anything under duress.  

On more than one occasion, a public employee exited the meeting and walked straight to one of our staff members, asking them how to get out of the union. With some confusion, we inquired why they signed if they did not want to join.  

Fear was almost always the answer — a desire to avoid conflict and fear of being called out or intimidated by the union presenter standing over them asking them to sign in front of everyone. 

Something very different happens when there is accountability when there is a witness, someone to counter lies and intimidation. Take, for instance, a meeting where Jeri Styles, an in-home caretaker, confidently spoke out against the union. Before the meeting, she was well-informed about her rights, thanks to information she received from the Freedom Foundation.  

During the union’s presentation, she challenged the union operative’s false claims, correcting misconceptions about the Freedom Foundation. Her courage inspired others in the room, emboldening several attendees to express interest in opting out, while none seemed eager to join.  

The union representative, flustered by Styles’ assertiveness, struggled to regain control of the narrative. 

Rhode Island’s Senate Bill 2785 aims to ban mandatory captive-audience meetings — and that’s fine if we’re going to pass neutral legislation to prevent any group from imposing its will unfairly on employees. Both employer and union should be held to the same standards of non-coercion, ensuring a truly free choice for the employees. 

This fight is about more than opposing one form of coercion. It’s about establishing a fair, just, and free workplace for all. Achieving this is impossible as long as private special-interest groups are granted monopoly rights and unfettered access to public servants. 

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National Outreach Director
Before joining the Freedom Foundation, Matthew worked as supervisor at the Washington State Department of Agriculture, where he coordinated efforts between federal and state agencies, tribes, and volunteer organizations in the Puget Sound. Grassroots politics has provided Matthew with many unique and sometimes controversial experiences. These experiences range from successfully building coalitions between different factions to training and organizing volunteers to maximize their effectiveness. Matthew’s passion for freedom to educate citizens about their Constitutional rights is strong and unwavering. “I not only measure success by results, bu t by the integrity of the action taken to achieve the result.” —Matthew H.