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Posts published in “Day: June 9, 2009”

A right to not be indoctrinated

A good many of the arguments against Oregon's Senate Bill 519, which has passed the Senate (and now goes to the House) and has turned into a real business-labor flashpoint, seem to revolve around something the bill doesn't do.

One news report, for example, noted that "Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said unions were trying to curtail the ability of employers to sit down with their employees to talk over issues that might affect the company. Ferrioli and others said the bill could be a particular hardship for companies that offer such secular services as house painting but make religious faith a central part of their mission."

In considering that, take a look at what the bill does. Here's the most central section:

An employer or the employer's agent, representative or designee may not discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or threaten to discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or take any adverse employment action against an employee:
(a) Who declines to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting or communication with the employer or the agent, representative or designee of the employer if the primary purpose of the meeting or communication is to communicate the opinion of the employer about religious or political matters;
(b) As a means of requiring an employee to attend a meeting or participate in communications described in paragraph (a) of this subsection . . .

The bill's effect, in other words, isn't to stop an employer from talking about whatever he chooses, or to block any kind of meetings or other one-on-one communications. What the bill does say is that if an employer-backed meeting is about politics or religion, the employee has the option of not attending, without risk of job loss or other disciplinary action. If it's a one-on-one communication, an employee could walk away from it. Or not, at the employee's option; employees can choose to attend (as many probably will continue to).

There is more to the bill, of course, mainly fleshing out that core point. But the essence is that people who rely on a paycheck shouldn't have that dependence used as a force for religious or political indoctrination. Which, if considered in that light - as it only intermittently has till now - might throw a little different spin on a debate in the House.