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Sustain Lynch right-to-work veto

Last modified: 11/30/2011 12:00:00 AM
Ostensibly, Speaker Bill O'Brien called the New Hampshire House into session today to give speedy consideration to Gov. John Lynch's proposed school funding amendment. But that's such a poor reason for summoning lawmakers to Concord in the off-season - some of them, after all, have jobs - that it's likely that other motives figured into the decision.

Perhaps the speaker grew bored with banging his gavel on his kitchen table and longed for an opportunity to exert his authority. Or perhaps he was hoping for a shot at overturning one or more of Lynch's vetoes, among them the so-called right-to-work legislation that passed the House and Senate.

A right-work-law is wrong for New Hampshire. It would lower wages and, by doing so, make it even harder for local workers to remain in the middle class.

We urge the Republicans who voted against the legislation to resist bullying, stand tough and continue to oppose this effort to restrict the rights of employers and employees to agree to the contract of their choosing. And Democrats, who almost universally oppose the bill, should assume that O'Brien is waiting for an opportunity to strike and remain in their seats until the very end of today's session.

Right-to-work legislation passed the House on three occasions, but each time with too few votes to overturn a Lynch veto. The Senate passed the legislation 18-6 - just enough to overturn the veto, if no senator changes his or her position.

The right-to-work legislation before the Legislature is not the result of any request on the part of New Hampshire employers. It is part of a national campaign bankrolled by big corporations that want to win from lawmakers what they couldn't achieve through negotiations with their employees: the ability to pay them less and eliminate benefits achieved through collective bargaining.

The National Right to Work Committee repeatedly proclaims on its website that "No one will be forced to pay tribute to a union to get or keep a job," as if that were happening. It isn't because, among other things, it would be illegal. What the committee and its Republican backers want to do is prohibit employers and their employees from entering into any contract that requires a non-union member to pay a portion of the cost of negotiating agreements. None of the money collected in such "fair share" fees may be used for lobbying or political contributions. Since the benefits gained by union negotiations with employers benefit all workers, union and non-union alike, all workers should share in the cost of securing and defending them.

Right-to-work laws do not attract employers or reduce unemployment rates. So far, 22 states have adopted such laws. The unemployment rate in all but a few of them, including North and South Dakota where the rate is perennially low, is higher than in New Hampshire, often much higher. Meanwhile, wages in right-to-work states are lower, not just for union members, but in the slide to the bottom that the law was designed to produce, lower for all workers.

Should Lynch's veto be overridden, New Hampshire would be the first New England state to adopt right-to-work legislation. Organized labor rightly calls such legislation the "right-to-work-for-less" laws. The message they send to the kind of bright, young employees New Hampshire needs to prosper, is that they would probably be better off finding a job in a state where, thanks to the efforts of organized labor, wages are higher and benefits better. Should O'Brien call the question, the House should sustain Lynch's veto.


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