Bill meant to help unions organize might ban DEI training mandates

S.102, ‘double-edged sword’ that would regulate free speech, put on hold

by Guy Page

A bill intended to prevent employers from holding anti-union meetings also might prevent employer-mandated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) meetings, a House committee learned earlier this month. Further work on the bill was shelved until next year. 

S.102, introduced by Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden), passed the Senate March 30. It was then sent to the House Committee on General and Housing, where an advocacy group representing employers, the Lake Champlain Chamber, then provided its perspective. 

S.102 prevents “captive audiences” in which an employer can compel an employee to attend a meeting on issues perceived as political or religious, the Chamber said. The legislation is aimed at making it easier for unions to form by preventing employers from holding meetings in which they share their perspectives on how unionization can change the workplace. 

The bill can also be construed and potentially used by employees that do not want to participate in meetings that involve topics they deem political, such as those around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.

A spokesman for the Lake Champlain Chamber explained that the preemption that this bill is in contention with is already being challenged in court by Florida and Connecticut. Connecticut has a law they passed that is very similar to the one proposed in Vermont, while Florida tried to enact a law that would stop employers from hosting training such as DEI training. 

“This exemplifies how trying to regulate speech is a double-edged sword that creates unintended consequences,” the Chamber said. 

The bill also creates the ability for unions to form new bargaining units without a full election and instead collect petitions signatures from 51 percent of the employees in a process called “card check.” LCC walked the committee through examples of how this seemingly harmless proposal is like allowing politicians into the polling place and to look over a person’s shoulder while they fill out their ballot, or worse yet, how some employees could be purposely excluded from the conversation. 

“The Committee gained an idea of how complex and difficult this legislation is,” LCC said.  

Work on S102 has been postponed until next year. The bill did pass the Senate, and work will resume next session in the House Committee on General and Housing.

Most of the content sourced from Lake Champlain Chamber 2023 Legislative Session Summary.

Categories: Legislation

2 replies »

  1. The card check system is as undemocratic as any idea that has ever been considered by the Vermont legislature. Republicans are routinely and unjustly accused of trying to restrict access to the ballot box. This bill says that in a unionization vote, there is no ballot box.

  2. The purpose of having a NLRB supervised elections is to make sure that individuals can make their decision about whether or not to join a union unfettered from pressure from management or the union organizing representatives. Union representative can promise outcomes and put pressure on employees to sign cards. I have been involved in several union organizing attempts and it is not uncommon for union organizers to come to the homes of employees “requesting” them to sign cards and harassing them at the work place.
    A very bad law.

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