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My Turn: Why does the union want to take away our jobs?

I was raised in a union household. My father was an International Union of Electrical Workers steward and said that unions formed to give workers bargaining power that they as individuals did not have. As a union employee myself, I saw my union negotiate pay rates and working conditions, representing me and hundreds of others so that we got a fair shake. I believe in unions. Especially in this age of corporate greed and dominance, the average person deserves a leg up where wages, working conditions and benefits are concerned.

So I was horrified recently when a legislator shared a mailing she had received from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, signed by union business manager Joe Casey. It was a lengthy position statement advocating the Northern Pass transmission project. The main argument was straightforward: IBEW expects jobs for its members. It presented a rosy picture of jobs, tax benefits and lowered electricity bills. To read it, you would wonder what all the fuss is about. How could anybody be against something this good?

Another thing my father said: If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. The Northern Pass picture is not all rosy. It is deeply flawed, and there are serious issues that Casey failed to address.

Northern Pass has set its plan in stone. It is determined to move electricity across our state using antiquated methods that will permanently disfigure some of the most untouched and beautiful landscape anywhere. Once the towers go up, there will be no taking them back.

Casey seems to have lost sight of the fact that there is more at stake here than jobs for his members. The construction jobs that Casey expects will end, his members will move on and the areas that depend on the landscape for their economy will be left holding the bag.

My area welcomes many, many visitors every year. Some of them drive up for the day from Derry or Bow. Some stay in hotels for a few days. Some go camping at Franconia Notch or in the White Mountain National Forest. Some love it enough to build or buy a second home here. These visitors support our economy. Most have a meal out and shop in our stores. Second-home owners build or remodel homes and then maintain them using local contractors. Builders, electricians, plumbers, cooks, waiters, landscapers, retailers, hairdressers, barbers, painters, hardware and building supply retailers and many others have jobs here because of our tourist population.

These jobs are threatened by Northern Pass.

How do I know? I was a second-home owner, and I would not have bought my house if transmission towers were looming over it. Who would? I would have gone somewhere else; so would any reasonable person. Visitors are distraught to learn that such unspoiled beauty will be disfigured. Then they tell us they will go somewhere else. Without our large visitor segment, the jobs that depend on it will dry up. We are already seeing effects just due to the threat of Noorthern Pass.

Casey is saying that his jobs matter more than our jobs. He seems to think it is fine for his members to have work that destroys ours. I have never run across such utter lack of regard for anything but a perceived jobs advantage. I never understood that a union’s mission is to garner jobs for its members at any cost, even a devastating human cost or an unacceptable social cost, like say, other people’s jobs. I am shocked by that.

The funny thing is, Northern Pass can be constructed using modern, low-impact technology that spares our landscape, provides jobs and delivers significant revenue to New Hampshire’s treasury. Underground lines along state-owned transport corridors address most of the negative visual impact, preserving tourism jobs. The state could collect transmission fees in the millions annually. Vermont, New York and Maine have figured this out and have underground projects under way. Surely IBEW members would be interested in learning this technology, since it is the wave of the future and would result in more jobs for them down the road. All of us in New Hampshire would benefit, instead of some of us winning and some of us losing.

(Nancy Martland is coordinator of the Sugar Hill Tower Opponents.)

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