Right-to-Work bill faces final public hearing

Kevin Landrigan, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
·3 min read

Mar. 25—CONCORD — New Hampshire would attract new employers if it became the 28th state — and the only one in the Northeast — to embrace a right-to-work bill (SB 61) to end the requirement workers pay union dues or cover the cost of collective bargaining, advocates said Thursday.

"This bill would guarantee workers for the right to decide for themselves whether a union would represent them, just like at any other employment environment," said McKayne Boedecker, executive director of New England Citizens for Right to Work. "Good unions don't need forced dues, and bad unions don't deserve them."

But an organized campaign on social media led to nearly eight times as many opponents — 1,703 — signing up against the bill as the 222 who registered their support for it.

"Every session we have to listen to the same bogus claims about growing our economy and protecting worker freedoms," said Glenn Brackett, president of the state's AFL-CIO, in testimony before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee. "These laws also work to line the pocket of out-of-state lobbyists and their big corporate funders."

The Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire lent its support.

"This is something that New Hampshire can do right now, today, to give our state an economic shot in the arm, all at no cost to the state," said David Juvet, BIA's senior vice president of public policy.

Last month, the State Senate voted 13-11 to endorse the measure as it has several times over the past decade.

House has never endorsed

The House of Representatives approved right-to-work legislation in 2011 and 2015, but it could not override vetoes in both years by Democratic governors.

The Legislature has failed in 39 different attempts to pass it.

The Republicans' 212-186 majority means the issue will be closely fought in the lower chamber when the House debates it next month.

Wisconsin (2015), West Virginia (2016), Kentucky and Louisiana (both 2017) are the states to have most recently adopted the measure.

The Union Leader reported that Boedeker, the only staffer running New England Citizens for Right to Work, signed up as treasurer of 11 different political action committees that then donated nearly $100,000 in 2020 to 10 Senate GOP candidates, eight of whom won last Nov. 3.

Three of those senators co-sponsored this bill.

Greg Mourad of Springfield, Va., with the National Right to Work Committee, said studies have shown wage growth is nearly double in right-to-work states as it has been in New Hampshire.

But Lisa Shapiro, an economist who lobbies for AFL-CIO, offered her own metrics, including that the state's gross state product in New Hampshire is $1,650 more per worker than in right-to-work states.

"There are other factors why right-to-work states are performing well," Shapiro said noting that business taxes and electricity costs are lower in those states than in New Hampshire and the 22 other states without the law.

When Chris Sununu first became governor in 2016, he made right-to-work an early priority, but the bill died in the House in the spring of 2017.

Since then, Governor Sununu hasn't led this effort and offered the cause little support in public.

The bill's prime sponsor, Deerfield Republican Sen. John Reagan, urged members of the House panel to be skeptical of all the attacks on it.

"You have been bombarded with information. Some of it is true, and some of it has been proven ridiculously false," Reagan said.

The House panel is scheduled to make a recommendation on the bill next Tuesday.

klandrigan@unionleader.com