The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 25, 2008

‘Captive audience’ bill clears House after long debate


“There were too many questions of what it would allow and would not allow,” she explained.

Pino said he was “glad” to see the religious clause of the bill extracted, then spoke against the proposal, which now heads to the Senate.

Webster said the bill doesn’t bar employers from conducting meetings, but does keep them from forcing workers to attend and listen.

But critics maintained it would have a chilling effect on employers to discuss such issues as environment with workers when, in the long haul, they could affect their very employment.

Besides, argued Overington, when he was working, he considered himself a “captive” employee.

“My employer told me what to do,” he said. “I was part of a captive audience as long as there wasn’t any type of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. He was paying me for what he wanted me to do.”

Overington said West Virginia has fallen to 50th in Forbes’ latest business rankings, making void the old comfort of at least having Mississippi to look down upon.

“I think our new slogan will be, ‘Thank goodness for our friends in Mexico,’” the delegate said. “They will be what keeps us from being dead last in this hemisphere.”

Caputo said he had no desire to cancel an employer’s right to exercise free speech under the First Amendment.

“But in free speech, a person should have the right to walk away,” the delegate said, looking directly at Overington. “It wasn’t this long ago when this country forced people to live in coal camps and told them what church to go to and what preacher to listen to and what doctor to go to. If they decided to go on strike, their clothes were set on the street. That was in this country. Not Mexico. This country. And it hasn’t been that long ago.”

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