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Latest News - April 2011

April 21, 2011
New Hampshire Senate Approves Bill Curbing Unions
Source: The New York Times
By: KATIE ZEZIMA

The latest battle front over limitations on unions has opened in New Hampshire, where a law is expected to be adopted that would prohibit unions from collecting mandatory fees and disallow collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union.

The State Senate passed the bill Wednesday — by a veto-proof vote of 16 to 8 — that would make New Hampshire the 23rd right-to-work state, and the first in the Northeast. The House passed a similar bill in February.

“I thought it was simply a freedom-of-choice issue,” said State Senator Raymond White, a Republican who supported the bill. “At the end of the day it’s simply a bill about does a person have to pay union dues?”

The two houses of the Legislature must work out a compromise bill that will be sent to Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, who has said he will veto it. The bill will then return to the Legislature for an expected override vote, at which point it will become law.

“The governor has been clear he would veto this legislation,” Colin Manning, a spokesman for Mr. Lynch, said in an e-mail. “The governor does not believe the state should be passing laws dictating the terms of contracts between private employers and workers.”

The battle over the legislation has been especially rancorous for New Hampshire. Protests were held at the Capitol in Concord last week, unusually loud and vitriolic events in a state where only 11 percent of employees are union members.

“We see this as an attack, really, on the middle class and working people and on our ability to negotiate,” said Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire A.F.L.-C.I.O. “Our economy is doing better than most. There is no public outcry for right-to-work in the state.”

The vote illustrates the major political shift that occurred in November, when conservative Republicans took a majority of the House and swept into the Senate, replacing the moderate bloc.

“These are not your typical New England moderate Republicans,” said Dante J. Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. “They’re more libertarian-minded Republicans that think unions should be out of the question in a contract between employee and employer.”

Like Republicans in other states, supporters in New Hampshire say the legislation is a way to improve a business climate in which there is competition with businesses in neighboring states.

“Right to work means more economic growth and more jobs here in New Hampshire, plain and simple,” House Speaker William O’Brien and the majority leader, David Bettencourt, said in a statement.

Labor groups plan to mobilize for the veto fight with rallies this weekend and calls to legislators.

“The antiworker group has taken control of the State Capitol,” Mr. MacKenzie said. “This is a street fight now.”

 

 


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