Around 20 union members protested today outside the office of Fred Kfoury Jr., president and CEO of Central Paper Products in Manchester, N.H., who appeared in a pro-Mitt Romney video supporting right-to-work legislation.
“They have a right to do that, but you know I have a right to my opinion too,’’ Kfoury said. “It’s too bad that that’s what they have to resort to when somebody expresses their opinion.’’
The protest shows just how incendiary the right-to-work issue is in New Hampshire – the first-in-the-nation primary state, where Romney has made right-to-work a part of his pro-job creation platform in the Republican presidential race.
“We just wanted Mr. Kfoury to know if he’s going to be out there saying things that aren’t true about right–to-work, that unions are bad for business in New Hampshire, there’s going to be a price to pay for that,’’ said Kurt Ehrenberg, spokesman for the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, which organized the protest in response to the video.
The Republican-led Legislature in New Hampshire passed right-to-work legislation last session, but has not been able to override a veto by Democratic Governor John Lynch. Union members have forcefully opposed the legislation, with around 300 people crowding the first hearing on the issue last winter, and continued activism since then. Romney, on the campaign trail, has urged New Hampshire to pass right-to-work legislation. A right-to-work bill would forbid unions from collecting mandatory dues from nonmembers.
In the video released yesterday by the Romney campaign, Kfoury says he believes his workers are happy and a union would inhibit business growth. “What if they don’t want to join the union and the union says you have to join?’’ Kfoury asks. “We live in the ‘Live Free Or Die’ state, and they can damn well choose whether they want to join an organization or not join an organization.’’
Kfoury said in an interview that he is not a Romney supporter – he is not supporting any candidate – but he has been a vocal supporter of right-to-work legislation, working with New Hampshire’s Business and Industry Association. His employees are not unionized. “I don’t have a problem with the unions,’’ Kfoury said. “I have a problem with them not saying that people have a choice.’’
Ehrenberg said the lunchtime protest included postal workers, sheet metal workers, electrical workers, community members, and others. “[Kfoury] was just totally out of line in terms of saying unions are bad for business…when he really has no experience with unions in his business,’’ Ehrenberg said.
Ehrenberg said the union was also upset that Kfoury said right-to-work legislation would give people a choice whether to join a union. Under existing federal law, no one can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment – though they can be forced to pay union fees. Ehrenberg said the AFL-CIO is considering organizing other activities around Central Paper Products.
Romney called Kfoury today to offer support, after he heard about the protests.
“This is a shameful attempt by President Obama’s union cronies to coerce and intimidate anybody who disagrees with their job-terminating policies,’’ said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. “Governor Romney strongly supports New Hampshire’s right-to-work legislation because it will help create jobs and promote economic growth.’’