N.H. public unions face a new reality after Supreme Court ruling

  • The Supreme Court.MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Ricky Carioti The Washington Post

Monitor staff
Published: 6/27/2018 6:27:26 PM

New Hampshire’s public unions will see their finances hit and may see their membership rolls reduced by Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlaws mandatory union fees for nonmembers, which accomplished what years of debate about “right-to-work” laws in the State House failed to do.

“This was not a surprise. We’ve been looking at it for a year. The folks that are going to be impacted by it are in the know, and it’s a matter of working on it,” said George Stroudt, coordinator of communication for the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in New Hampshire.

The 5-4 ruling prevents contracts for public-sector unions covering educators, police officers, firefighters and the like from requiring that nonmembers pay agency fees, sometimes called fair-share fees.

Those fees, usually between 60 percent and 80 percent of union membership dues, are designed to cover the cost of negotiating and implementing the contract and its benefits, rules and salaries that cover non-union as well as union employees.

The Supreme Court ruling does not apply to unions in private companies.

Opponents of the agency fees argued that they were often used by unions to support political activities. The Supreme Court ruling, written by Justice Samuel Alito, ruled largely on First Amendment grounds, saying that mandatory fees for political work violated free speech rights.

Union fee proponents argued that attacking the fees is just a way to weaken unions for political reasons. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the majority of “weaponizing” the First Amendment.

Public union chapters in New Hampshire will have to notify everybody affected by each contract, giving nonmembers the option to decide to continue paying agency fees.

One question is whether this will make it more likely for people to leave the union or not join in the first place, because they can save more money. Union dues vary widely depending on the profession and the job, but they generally cost a few hundred dollars a year.

Reaction to the ruling in New Hampshire was predictable.

“By eliminating the right to collect fair-share fees, unions will now have fewer resources to fight for their members. This decision is part of a longstanding agenda to weaken unions and claw back hard-earned wages and benefits from our contract,” said Richard Gulla, president of the State Employees Association of New Hampshire.

“As a supporter of right-to-work, I am pleased by the court’s ruling,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in statement. “In the coming days, we will work to determine necessary next steps to ensure that New Hampshire statutes and policies are fully compliant with constitutional requirements.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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