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House revives right-to-work in new form

Last modified: 1/6/2012 12:00:00 AM
If you thought Gov. John Lynch's veto put an end to right-to-work legislation, think again. The House voted 212-128 yesterday for a bill that revives the controversial labor issue - but just for state employees.

The bill would prevent the State Employees Association from automatically collecting money from state employees who don't join the union and pay full union dues.

Instead, a state employee could opt out of the union and also refuse to pay the lesser, non-membership fee as long as they relinquished all benefits the union had negotiated.

"State employees should not be forced to pay for the support of a union they may or may not agree with," said Rep. Carol McGuire, a Republican from Epsom.

State employees who do not join the union now must pay 59 percent of the union dues to cover the cost of negotiating the state employee contract.

Union president Diana Lacey said yesterday the bill would create an unfair situation in that state employees would be forced to give up their benefits - their wages and health benefits - if they chose not to pay the non-membership fee. That's "worker discrimination," Lacey said.

"There are (New Hampshire) families homeless, hungry and sick," Lacey added in a press release. "The speaker had his fight over right-to-work and lost it. He should stop wasting taxpayer money on hateful attacks against New Hampshire workers, and stop wasting valuable time that could be applied to solving other important issues."

Lynch vetoed similar legislation in May that would have banned all unions from collecting fees from non-members. House Speaker Bill O'Brien pledged to make it law anyway but didn't get enough votes to override the veto when he brought the legislation back before members a few days after Thanksgiving.

Asked yesterday whether Lynch would veto this bill should it reach his desk, the governor's spokesman, Colin Manning, said, "The governor opposes so-called right-to-work legislation."

Rep. Marshall Quandt, an Exeter Republican, was the bill's most vocal opponent yesterday, as he has been since the legislation was first introduced. He alluded to the intense political fight between union members, the governor and legislators during the last vote.

"We just went through this. It was nasty," Quandt said. "It put friends against friends, some of which are no longer friends. Is this what we want to go through for the next year? Is this what we want to drag out to the next election?"

Quandt also chastised lawmakers for "attacking" state workers, who saw more than 1,500 jobs eliminated last year and just returned $50 million to the state in contract negotiations.

"We are the board of directors for state employees," Quandt said. "Is this how we treat our state employees? Is this how we say, 'Thank you?' I don't have it in me to do this to them."

Goffstown Rep. Calvin Pratt, a Republican, said he supported the bill because the current law does not allow state employees to truly "disassociate" from the union.

Reciting a quote he said he was fond of, Pratt said, "Liberty (is) simply the right to say no and have it respected."

Merrimack County representatives mostly voted along party lines, with the Republicans voting for the bill and the Democrats voting against it. The exceptions were Republican Reps. David Kidder of New London, Tony Soltani of Epsom and Priscilla Lockwood of Canterbury, who opposed the bill.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or at atimmins@cmonitor.com.)


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