Opinion: ‘Right to work’ bill back before NH legislature

An apprentice electrician bends pipe while installing stage lights in South Pomfret, Vt., in 2014.

An apprentice electrician bends pipe while installing stage lights in South Pomfret, Vt., in 2014. Sarah Priestap/ Valley News


Published: 02-19-2024 3:49 PM

Nicholas Lydon of Bow is an electrician for IBEW Local Union 490.

It’s back to session for our state’s legislature, and with it comes a few guarantees: partisan fighting, and a seemingly semi-annual introduction of “right to work” legislation. While the former is an unfortunate standard in modern politics at the moment, the latter is an old, tired and unnecessary bill that is something that should have stayed dead when it was killed the first time in 1949. Fast forward a short 75 years and we’re still seeing it show up.

The thing that is most interesting about “right to work” is the people who support it and those who don’t. Sitting in the room listening to testimony given to the House Committee of Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services showed the people against “right to work” were all workers from the area, in support however, not so much. Besides the bill sponsor (a first-term representative out of Hooksett) and the eight co-sponsors, there was only one other person in favor that spoke. The other person in favor was a representative from a group who travels the country telling people they need this bill, and how popular it is. If the bill is so popular it wasn’t reflected in the log-in sheet, with 33 in support of “right to work” and 911 against. But why are so many people against it?

First, it could be that as of 2023, 10 of the states with the most people living below the poverty line, eight of them were “right to work” states. “Right to work” may create a job or two, but the problem is no one can afford to live off those jobs. In fact, if you take a larger sample size, 17 of the 25 states with the highest poverty are “right to work” states. This means only 9 of the 27 states with “right to work” laws are above the bottom half of the country for poverty. And for the top 10 having the lowest poverty, only one “right to work” state makes it in. It’s worth mentioning that on this list the state with the least amount of poverty is already New Hampshire.

Second, I’ll give my own personal experience with the matter. I’ve been an electrician for 23 years, but I’ve only been a union electrician for the last five. For 18 years I worked on job sites all over New England, in just about every state north of Connecticut, and east of New York, and all non-union. I was perfectly happy with that decision, and no one bothered me or tried to force me into a union. I then decided for my own personal reasons I wanted to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, so I did.

For myself, this is why the argument for “right to work” rings hollow. I worked in the trades for years with other non-union workers, and we never needed any protection from unions. On top of that, the first time the union ever interacted with me was because I finally decided to go to them, and I reached out. Nothing was ever coerced of me, and I was never forced to do anything. This is all to say that this defense of “right to work” is a lie, you don’t have to work for a union, you can just work elsewhere, and no one will stop you.

The real question that needs to be asked at this point would be, with a housing crisis in full swing, the issues we face with homelessness and drug addiction, is fighting a 75-year-old imaginary battle the most useful endeavor for our lawmakers to be on? And when our state is already pushing forward with the lowest poverty of all 50 states, do we need this unnecessary bill? I would urge everyone to reach out to your representatives and tell them to keep New Hampshire truly free and allow those who want to be in unions to remain in them, without being attacked by legislation like this that isn’t designed to help, but just to hurt a very specific group of people.

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