Thursday, January 05, 2012

NH Right to Work: The Return of the Hydra

In 2011, NH unions and supporters ultimately defeated HB 474, the first RTW bill filed by the current NH legislature. This was a real victory against the special interests and extremists at work in my state, but, sadly, it's too soon to do the victory lap.

In February 2011, the NH House passed HB 474, a so-called "right to work" bill. NH has been fighting RTW for decades. It's the hydra whose legs keep growing back, no matter how many times they're cut off. As I documented in a piece called Threatening Their Own, threats from anti-union thugs started before the NH Senate voted in April. In What's Behind Right to Work, we took a look at the special interests behind RTW, and linked to an opinion piece from the Keene Sentinel, written by former GOP state senator Mark Hounsell.

Current NH State Representative Lee Quandt has been an outspoken critic of the right to work agenda. Rep. Quandt is both a Republican and a former union member. On his own blog , Rep. Quandt refers to it as "right to work for less." Representative Quandt's criticism of the O'Brien led House resulted in his being kicked off the House Finance Committee. The current NH speaker tolerates no dissent from the members of his own party.

Finally, in December I wrote about the failure to override the veto of HB 474. There was a brief sigh of relief, but the speaker had promised that RTW would be back.

He wasn't kidding. It came back very quickly. HB 383, a bill that had been languishing in committee, suddenly loomed on the horizon. A piece called Son of Right to Work, at Blue Hampshire warned readers there that it was coming back, and provided a link to the bill's text. The bill is written to apply to state employees, but establishing a precedent is just what the union busters are hoping for.

Today the NH House passed 383, by a vote of 212 to 128. NH Labor News posted a press release from NH AFL-CIO President Mark McKenzie:

Today a clear bipartisan coalition of 128 state representatives rejected the attempt by special interests to repackage HB 474, the right-to-work law voted down by the House in December. The fact that over a third of our House representatives – both Republicans and Democrats - voted against HB 383's passage is a clear sign that Speaker O'Brien is losing momentum in his Tea Party-fueled campaign to pass the so-called right to work law.

While HB 383 only impacts state employees as currently written, it opens a back door for the Speaker and other Tea Party extremists to impose a right-to-work on all New Hampshire workers and businesses. Our legislators' continued opposition to the right-to-work law in any and all forms the Speaker that New Hampshire's people need jobs more than they need political attacks on workers.

As New Hampshire struggles out of this recession, Speaker O'Brien has shown no wavering from the extreme Tea Party agenda that has cost us thousands of jobs in the Granite State. Passing HB 383 is just another sign that the Speaker cannot admit defeat. He will push his agenda at any cost – regardless of how it impacts the people of New Hampshire.

In summary, NH defeated HB 474, the first RTW bill proposed by the current NH legislature. With HB 383, we're going to have to go through the same process all over again.

Speaker O'Brien is much less popular in 2012, and so is his extremist agenda. Four special elections have been held in the last year, and every single winning candidate opposed RTW. As Mark McKenzie points out, this is a bi-partisan coalition of over a third of the NH House that voted against HB 383. GOP partisans are increasingly willing to distance themselves from O'Brien, a movement that will continue to grow as we move closer to the November elections.

The speaker continues to assert that businesses won't locate to NH because we don't have a RTW law, even though when pressed, O'Brien was unable to name a single company that would move here if such a bill were enacted. In fact, Safrans, an international company, recently announced their intention to build a manufacturing facility in Rochester, NH, and create some 400 manufacturing jobs. Safrans seems to have been undeterred by a lack of RTW legislation in NH.

If Speaker O'Brien really wants to make his failure to enact RTW legislation his political legacy, NH workers will be happy to oblige him. We beat back 474. We'll defeat 383, too.

cross-posted at MainSt/

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