Captive Audience Meetings: A Backgrounder

Source: Jessica Harris, On Labor blog, April 2, 2014

A video produced by Target for use during captive audience meetings was leaked last month. The video warns employees, “If Target faced rigid union contracts like some of our competitors, our ability to serve our guests could suffer dramatically – and with fewer guests, what happens to our team?” It added that if a union were elected, “chances are [it] would change our fast, fun and friendly culture, with their way of doing business.” The video closes with the words: “Refuse to sign, and keep Target union free.”

While the publicity the Target video has received is unusual, the content of the video is not. A 2009 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that employers held captive audience meetings in 89% of union election campaigns between 1999 and 2003. The average employer held 10.4 meetings during the course of an election campaign. Moreover, the effect of the meetings was not negligible. Whereas the union win rate in elections in which captive audience meetings were not utilized was 73%, that figure dropped to 47% when management employed mandatory meetings.

This backgrounder explores the legal context in which these meetings are held and discusses some recent proposals to ban captive audience meetings.