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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vote on right to work not veto-proof

CONCORD – The state Legislature moved to make New Hampshire the 23rd state and only one north of Virginia to keep nonunion members from having to financially support one.

But the 225-140 vote Wednesday by the House of Representatives to embrace Senate changes left in doubt whether lawmakers can overcome a certain Lynch veto.

The vote is 14 shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto; the Senate accomplished that by passing the bill, 16-8, last month.

This legislation (HB 474) would interfere in the right of employers and employees to negotiate terms over support of a union in the work place.

“The governor has maintained for some time now so-called right-to-work legislation has state government dictating to private businesses and their employees what should be included in a contract,” said Lynch press secretary Colin Manning. “State government should stay out of it. He is going to veto it.”

House Speaker William O’Brien expressed confidence that an organized campaign to lobby wavering House members one by one can produce a veto-proof majority when it’s needed.

The House agreed Wednesday to accept the Senate move to strike from the bill a provision affirming that unions did not have to represent the interests of those who refuse to join.

Union leaders argued the House language could lead to new ad hoc unions forming to challenge the union designated to collectively bargain with management.

Rep. Gary Daniels, R-Milford, said he authored that change to answer union complaints about “free riders” or non-union members who would benefit from union-negotiated improvements in working conditions.

“The unions came out and trashed the amendment, so much so that the Senate removed the amendment,” Daniels said. “It gets frustrating when you try to help a certain group and a point you get to where you just can’t do anything else.”

Rep. Jeff Goley, D-Manchester, said median income is much higher and unemployment much lower in New Hampshire than in states with right-to-work laws.

And Goley cited this week’s University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll that showed 66 percent of likely voters agree private sector workers should have the right to unionize and 62 percent felt that way about government employees.

Closed shops that compel employees to either pay dues or fees to cover negotiating costs only come about after agreement between labor and management, he added.

“Under current state and federal law, no one can be forced to join a union or pay union dues,” Goley said.

The New England Citizens for Right to Work claimed 68,000 in the state must pay either union dues or agency fees to cover collective bargaining costs as a condition of employment.

Union leaders have claimed that adopting right to work was a race to the economic bottom and an attack on the middle class.

“These attacks on organized work forces seek to dismantle the very foundations that helped build the entire middle class,” said Magnus Pardoe, a commuter technician at Nashua Community College, speaking for the State Employees Association. “It will hurt not only my family, but the families of our students, neighbors and colleagues as well.”

But House GOP leaders celebrated passing a law following a campaign that’s been more than 15 years in the making. The state Senate and House under previous GOP control has rejected the idea.

Daniels said this anti-union provision has appeal to multinational companies looking to locate large plants such as Boeing’s move to build a $750 million assembly plant for new 787 jetliners in South Carolina.

“Passage of this law would make New Hampshire the only state in New England to put up the sign ‘open for business,’” Daniels said.

Union machinists in Boeing’s home state of Washington have filed a labor relations complaint that the company chose South Carolina because it was concerned about strikes by Washington workers.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.