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Friday, January 31, 2014

NH Senate kills right-to-work bill

CONCORD – The annual right-to-work campaign to outlaw making nonunion employees pay to cover some of the costs of collective bargaining failed in the state Senate on Thursday.

A pair of Republican state senators – David Boutin, of Hooksett, and Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry – joined all 11 Senate Democrats to quietly set aside a measure that loudly dominated the last Republican-led Legislature in 2011-12. ...

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CONCORD – The annual right-to-work campaign to outlaw making nonunion employees pay to cover some of the costs of collective bargaining failed in the state Senate on Thursday.

A pair of Republican state senators – David Boutin, of Hooksett, and Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry – joined all 11 Senate Democrats to quietly set aside a measure that loudly dominated the last Republican-led Legislature in 2011-12.

The Senate vote to kill the bill (SB 217) was 13-11.

State Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, said he’s been involved in unions for 50 years and did not view this measure as an attack against them but rather a bill standing up for the rights of individual employees.

And Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said some economic growth measures are better in states with right-to-work laws than in states like New Hampshire that don’t have them.

In Washington, union workers recently accepted wage concessions so their employer, airplane maker Boeing, did not move operations to a right-to-work state.

“Quite frankly, it seems to me the best benefit we could give people is the benefit of a job,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, a right-to-work supporter.

But Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, said these laws try to trick workers into believing they are better off without a union. In rural areas, a union gives employees job and working condition protections.

“I don’t think a race to the bottom helps; it is a disaster to an area that needs real economic development,” Woodburn said.

Some of the debate veered off-topic a bit about whether the state having strengths in the free market outweighs labor protections.

“Wouldn’t you agree the free market actually works?” Sanborn asked Woodburn.

“The free market won’t take care of rural areas; we don’t have the size, we don’t have the market,” Woodburn replied.

Only two years ago, both branches of the Republican-led Legislature adopted the bill, only to have then-Gov. John Lynch veto it.

Former House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, delayed the veto override vote for months but still failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote to overcome the veto.

Gregory Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said New Hampshire still could gain a job-creating advantage by becoming the first Northeast state with right to work.

“Right-to-work states makes a state more attractive to businesses, makes businesses move to the state,” Moore said last week.

But AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie insisted that New Hampshire ranks higher than right-to-work states on many fronts, from median household income and high student test scores to a low crime rate.

“To a large extent, globalization has rendered right to work ineffective. In the globalized economy, companies looking for cheap labor are overwhelmingly looking to China or Mexico,” MacKenzie said.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a first-term Democrat, is a strong opponent of right to work as chief executive.

“This legislation would overturn contracts willingly entered into by employers undermining the ability of workers to organize for fair wages and safe workplaces,” Hassan wrote last week.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).