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Gov. Chris Sununu, support making work pay in New Hampshire

In a market economy, there is an easy way to determine how high a value we put on something – Look at the price tag. No one thinks this paints the total picture, but it does provide a useful basis for comparison. Using this metric to examine New Hampshire’s economy makes one thing perfectly clear: The State of New Hampshire doesn’t value workers or the work they do. We need to do better to compete for the workers our economy needs and we need to do it now.

Thanks to the legislature, Governor Sununu has an opportunity to take an important first step to recognizing the value of work and raising the state wage floor. Signing SB10 will raise the minimum wage and bring the decision on what to pay our lowest-paid colleagues back from Washington DC to New Hampshire, where it belongs. It will also make us more competitive in the area of attracting and keeping the talented workforce New Hampshire needs in the 21st century.

I am a union man, but you don’t have to share my values to see the impact that failing to price labor accurately is having on New Hampshire’s economy. Our chronic inability to keep young people here or to motivate young people to move here is one. The fact that, year-in and year-out, college graduates head for the exits has been recognized as an ongoing crisis for as long as I can remember.

Another symptom of our inability to offer competitive wages is clearly visible to anyone involved in staffing or managing workforces in New Hampshire. Jobs go unfilled, business’s expansion plans get trimmed back, and new ventures struggle to fill crucial roles. New Hampshire’s artificially depressed wages make it hard for businesses to attract the talents they need. The spouses of skilled workers face a job market offering lower wages, contributing to lower household incomes. Their children face a state with very expensive college tuition and that does little to convince them to build adult lives near their parents.

As the head of a federation of labor unions that includes skilled trades unions, I hear stories all the time about a state that doesn’t retain enough young people to fill the necessary apprenticeships to replace the baby boomers currently retiring. As the head of a federation that includes building trades unions, I get reports of construction sites filled with out-of-state plates because we don’t have the needed workforce here in New Hampshire.

We can do better. We have to do better. Signing SB10 will send a message to young people, to recent college grads, and to skilled workers looking for new opportunities: New Hampshire is open for business.

Glenn Brackett is the president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions representing 30,000 workers throughout the state. He was formerly the Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2320.