A federal judge has dismissed a challenge to the new Oregon workplace meetings law which prohibits employers from firing workers who refuse to attend meetings to discuss politics, religion or union organizing.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman dismissed a lawsuit filed by Associated Oregon Industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce arguing the law passed last year by the Oregon Legislature violates free speech rights and is unconstitutional.
The state’s largest business lobby and the chamber had sued state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and the Laborers International Union of North America, Local 296, claiming the law also illegally limits an employer’s right, under the National Labor Relations Act, to hold workplace meetings.
Avakian said that Mosman dismissed the suit because AOI and the chamber could not show they had suffered any injuries as a result of the law that went into effect in January.
Avakian said he expects future challenges but “I am pleased to see the new law victorious on its first day in court.”
He noted the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is not the agency responsible for enforcing the workplace meetings law, but he said the law helps ensure that workers are safe from retaliation “by employers who wish to impose their religious or political views on their employees.”
J.L. Wilson, spokesman for AOI, said the judge decided AOI and the chamber did not have standing to sue the labor commissioner at this point and it was premature to raise the issue against the labor union because the law had not yet been enforced.
“The judge basically said we had to wait until somebody gets sued under the law until we can challenge the legality of it,” Wilson said.
The AOI complaint that was dismissed claimed the state law was a “classic prior restraint — a law that effectively prohibits a form of speech before it occurs.”
But a friend of the court brief filed by professors at five law schools across the country to support Avakian and the union said any federal ruling on the Oregon law “will have wide-ranging consequences for tens of millions of American workers and their ability to exercise a free choice concerning whether or not they wish to join a labor union.”
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