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MY TURN

Is common sense returning to state politics?

Encouraging sign in special elections

It appears common sense may finally be returning to New Hampshire politics. In state houses across the country, including New Hampshire, corporate-backed politicians used the past legislative session to wage war on the middle class. They tried to pit union versus non-union, worker versus worker. New Hampshire's workers are remaining vigilant, expecting more from their elected leaders. And it's working.

In the last legislative session, the New Hampshire House and Senate voted to pass a 'right-to-work' bill to destroy unions. Gov. John Lynch did the right thing by vetoing this dangerous bill.

Since July, three special elections in New Hampshire have resulted in wins for right-to-work opponents - two Democrats and a Republican - and two members who voted for right-to-work have resigned.

'Right-to-work' is a misnomer because it confers no rights. It creates no jobs, and lowers wages in the states that have it. It ensures profits for CEOs, while depressing standards for workers and decimating the middle class. There is only one reason for 'right-to-work' bills: to take away workers' ability to bargain with their employer over wages, benefits and working conditions.

New Hampshire's right-to-work (for less) bill was supported by out-of-state lobbyists for corporations that certainly have no responsibility to New Hampshire's teachers, police officers, health care or sanitation workers - the people who make New Hampshire work.

The threat of right-to-work is real because the Legislature may still attempt to override Lynch's veto.

New Hampshire has a fast-growing economy, with one of the lowest unemployment rates and highest median incomes in the nation. Workers in New Hampshire are hardworking and productive and businesses are thriving. It is frightening to think the Granite State could yet follow the example of Alabama, Mississippi or Florida. These are among the 22 right-to-work-for-less states where the middle class struggles to stay afloat, where unemployment is high, and where people who have jobs have lower wages and are less likely to have health care for their families. There's a reason we call it 'right to work for less.'

House Speaker Bill O'Brien cleared union firefighters from the House when right-to-work legislation was being debated. The people of New Hampshire recently responded by making their voices heard at the polls, electing Kevin Janvrin, a proud union firefighter, to the Rockingham County District 14 House seat in a special election. Janvrin is a moderate Republican who has called for a restoration of common sense.

After Janvrin was elected, the Senate voted 17-7 to sustain Lynch's veto of a voter ID law that could have suppressed the right to vote among a number of groups, including students, senior citizens and the disabled.

The recent special elections show that voters will elect those leaders who support working families and will vote out corporate-funded politicians who want to destroy the middle class. As I said to an audience on Labor Day in Detroit, we all have to vote in order to take anti-worker politicians out of office.

As extremist politicians face the opportunity to ratchet up pressure again to pass right-to-work, it is the role of every Granite Stater, Republican or Democrat, to stand up for what's right. We all need to work together. And if our elected leaders forget who they work for, it is up to all of us to remind them.

(James P. Hoffa is general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.)

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