‘Right to Work’ coming to N.H.

NASHUA – City Alderman and State Rep. Michael O’Brien, a former firefighter and union leader, said Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on public sector unions is an attack on the rights of working people.

“We don’t need the Supreme Court bellying up and being political,” O’Brien said.

Justices ruled 5-4 in Janus vs AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) that public employees who do not join unions do not have to pay any fees to the unions.

Heretofore, non-union public employees were required to pay an agency fee to the union even if they didn’t join the union.

Mark Janus, a public employee for the state of Illinois, filed a lawsuit against the union he refused to join after it kept collecting agency fees from him, according to the court record. Janus refused to join because he opposes the political positions the union takes.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Court opinion that requiring Janus to pay the agency fee violates his First Amendment rights by compelling him to subsidize political opinions with which he does not agree.

Gov. Chris Sununu, who lost a fight last year to do much the same thing as the Janus decision through a so-called “right-to-work” law, said he will now make sure New Hampshire laws are inline with the new ruling.

“As a supporter of right-to-work, I am pleased by the Court’s ruling,” Sununu said. “In the coming days, we will work to determine necessary next steps to ensure that New Hampshire statutes and policies are fully compliant with constitutional requirements.”

There are few private sector unions in the Granite State, as most of the unions cover public sector employees, such as teachers, police officers, firefighters and public works employees. O’Brien said all public sector employees benefit from union negotiations when it comes to working conditions, hours, pay and benefits. Asking the non-union employees to help cover the costs of negotiations is only right, he said.

“What’s fair is fair,” O’Brien said.

Former state senator Molly Kelly, running in the Democratic primary for governor, said the Janus ruling will hurt New Hampshire families.

“It will make it harder for New Hampshire families to improve their lives, provide opportunities for their children and ensure a secure retirement,” Kelly said.

O’Brien said unions have made real impacts in New Hampshire, and Nashua in particular.

“In this town, children worked in the mills,” O’Brien said. “When I came onto the fire department, firemen had to buy their own boots.”

Unions will scramble in the short-term as their funding gets cut, O’Brien said, but they won’t go anywhere.

“Unions will survive. There’ll be another day,” O’Brien said.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., also blasted the decision as “anti-worker.”

“This decision weakens the ability of unions to bargain and fight for good wages and good benefits for workers, undermining efforts to ensure that all workers share in economic growth,” she said.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.