The so-called “right to work” lobby is one of the most perfidious set of ideas in the United States. Now that the Republican Party has declared total war on the labor movement (to be fair, one can say this started under Reagan, but really it’s only been since the 2010 elections that this has filtered down to the state level with this level of intensity), eliminating any union rights are a top priority whenever Republicans take power in a state. That’s now moving to truth not only in Midwestern states, but in New England too. Since New Hampshire remains the most right-wing state in the region, this is where it may be happening.
The New Hampshire Senate passed a “right to work” bill Thursday, advancing a longstanding Republican effort to make union membership dues optional for private sector employees.
Senate Bill 61, which passed 13-11, would prohibit collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers that require employees to contribute union dues. Instead, unions could only collect contributions from those who volunteered to join them.
Unions and Democrats have long argued that the mandatory fees are fair because they cover the efforts made by the unions to negotiate fair contracts for all employees, as well as representation in worker disputes. But supporters of right-to-work say that they’re an unwarranted burden on workers who don’t wish to participate, and say that unions should work to convince employees that their services are necessary.
In a statement after its passage, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, praised the bill as “pro-jobs and pro-workers.” The bill would create faster wage growth, he argued, and spur the state’s economy.
“Becoming a right-to-work state will also make New Hampshire a more attractive destination for businesses looking to relocate,” Bradley said. “I believe right-to-work, along with lower business taxes and workers compensation costs, will make New Hampshire more competitive and attractive to grow and locate a business.”
But Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, a Manchester Democrat and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2320, argued the bill had one intention: to weaken unions and make negotiating worker benefits harder.
“Passage of this bill will not only cripple collective bargaining, it will silence and disempower people in the workplace,” Cavanaugh said in a statement. “…’Right to Work’ has always been wrong for New Hampshire, and today’s vote speaks volumes to the majority’s indifference to the rights and protections of our workforce.”
There’s a very strong chance of this becoming law. The New Hampshire House is hard to gauge because it is extremely large, a part-time job that pays $100 a year, and filled with crazy people. But Republicans have a 213-187 advantage there. There’s very little reason to believe that Chris Sununu won’t sign it. Were New Hampshire to go right to work, it would be disastrous for workers there and moreover for New England generally, as the tentacles of anti-union extremism stretch into the last regional bastion of American unionism for the first time.