HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Retailers, home builders, contractors, and large and small businesses are teaming up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to sue the state of Connecticut, claiming the “captive audience” law signed by Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) is unconstitutional.

Chris DiPentima, CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), says the law infringes on his members’ rights. 

“It just tramples on the constitutional rights of our businesses to have free speech in the workplace,” DiPentima said.

CBIA is a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Hartford.

DiPentima says his members can no longer inform workers about issues affecting their jobs, like new regulations on taxes, energy and transportation, without fear of litigation.

“This really sent the message to the business community that Connecticut isn’t open for business, that there continues to be an anti-business sentiment among some of our policymakers,” DiPentima said.

For a decade, labor unions fought to get a ban on “captive audience” meetings, claiming the gatherings were intimidation toward workers. This year, big companies like Walmart and Starbucks saw workers organize.

The new law gives employees the option to walk out of meetings where an employer could share its position regarding religious or political matters.

The president of the AFL-CIO says workers at McDonald’s on I-95 have been forced to attend captive audience meetings since 2019. Our cameras have captured their rallies.

“This law simply helps level the playing field for working people in Connecticut, and we will not go back,” Hawthorne told News 8.

Attorney General William Tong is named in the lawsuit. News 8 reached out to his office. They said he cannot comment on pending litigation.

Meantime, business groups say they are not anti-union, but they will protect the constitutional rights of employers to manage their workplace without government overreach. Adding a National Labor Relations Act protects employers’ ability to speak directly with employees.

Is the filing of the lawsuit a signal to voters a week before the midterm elections? DiPentima said his group does not endorse candidates, and they have been working on this issue since last spring. 

“The timing was just purely coincidental,” DiPentima said. “We needed to get this litigation filed as soon as possible to protect the businesses during this uncertain time.”

California and Wisconsin were sued over a similar law. The U.S. Supreme court ruled in favor of the businesses, and the law was thrown out.