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N.H. labor bill met by strong resistance

Lynch, unions oppose measure on right-to-work

By Norma Love
Associated Press / February 4, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — Governor John Lynch told a House committee yesterday that he opposes an antiunion right-to-work bill that would end the practice of requiring nonunion members to pay a share of collective bargaining costs.

In a letter to the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee, Lynch said the bill being considered would undercut the collective bargaining process in New Hampshire.

“Over the years, our state Legislature has consistently recognized the good relationship that exists between management and labor in New Hampshire by rejecting this type of legislation and allowing individual businesses and their workers to determine their own labor agreements,’’ he wrote.

Lynch did not say whether he would veto the bill.

More than 300 people filled the House chamber yesterday for a hearing on the bill. The measure also would prohibit future collective bargaining agreements from requiring workers to join a union or pay the fair share fee as a condition of employment. Most opposed the bill, including many union members.

The fair share payments are made instead of union dues to help cover the costs of negotiations and administering contracts. Federal law requires unions to negotiate benefits for all workers, union and nonunion alike. Contract negotiations determine whether an agreement contains a fair share requirement. No one can be required to join a union.

The state’s labor commissioner, George Copadis, testified against the bill and said the six previous labor commissioners going back decades also had opposed right-to-work legislation.

“As we have heard often, right-to-work offers workers one thing: the right to work for less,’’ he said.

Copadis said he had held meetings with 2,000 New Hampshire businesses over the six years he has been commissioner and the issue of right-to-work legislation never came up.

“This issue is just not on anyone’s radar screen other than when I come to testify before this committee,’’ he said.

State Representative Al Baldasaro, a Republican from Londonderry and bill co-sponsor, said unions should not force workers to give up their money by telling them they can’t work there otherwise.

“It’s extortion. It has to stop,’’ he said.

Baldasaro said workers should be able to negotiate individually with companies. If they don’t want to be part of a union, they should not get any union services, he said.

“No one should be forced to pay dues to an organization they don’t belong to,’’ said state Representative Will Smith, a New Castle Republican and the bill’s prime sponsor. Smith said job growth has been better in the 22 states with right-to-work laws.

But Copadis cited statistics that rank New Hampshire with the 10th-highest per capita income while six right-to-work states rank near the bottom.

“The state of New Hampshire is not economically stagnant. The state of New Hampshire offers low unemployment, low taxes, and a great place to raise a family,’’ he said. “There is no crying need for changing this New Hampshire advantage and setting the clock back to lower wages for employees.’’