Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Right to Work, Again

On January 30, 2013 the NH House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee heard HB 323, a bill establishing the Franklin Partin right to work act.

The bill was sponsored by former House Speaker (and man without a committee) William O’Brien, Rep. Al Baldasaro, Rep. Mark Warden, and Reps: Boehm, Cebrowski, Kappler, and Comerford. Two out of the seven sponsors are Free Staters. All are Republicans.

This is yet another attempt on O’Brien’s part at passing a right to work law. It was what he wanted more than anything last biennium, and he’s bitter about being thwarted.

As lead sponsor of the bill, O’Brien testified first. He began by giving us the history of Franklin Partin. According to Obie, Franklin Partin came back from serving his country, and got a job he loved. Then somehow whatever this beloved job was became unionized, and poor Franklin Partin had to leave. His religious beliefs prevented him from joining a union. (That’s a Christian denomination I’m unfamiliar with.)

In any case, he was the NH president of Right to Work, and spent years fighting to get a RTW law passed in NH, and that’s why Obie named the bill after him.

Obie tells us that NH will either be left behind in a Northeast that is a forced union part of the country, or join and enjoy the benefits of being a rtw state. Even government workers are leaving unions. (No mention of the cause – they’re losing their jobs). NH is going to become an economic backwater. Our young people are leaving NH – leaving because jobs aren’t being created.

Rep. Flanagan (from the committee) asked Obie about wages in other RTW states. O’Brien did a very elaborate tap-dance around having to answer that question. At one point he said that new jobs are being created that are going to look like low wage jobs, but they really aren’t. HUH?

Flanagan asks for clarification. Bottom line: the jobs being created are low wage jobs, but they’ll get better. In fact, Obie says, NH wages are artificially high, a symptom of stagnation. This may explain why O’Brien has never won a Nobel prize in economics.

Rep. Weed asked O’Brien why he thinks young people are leaving the state. Are high tuitions part of the problem? O’Brien says he hasn’t seen any data on that.

He brought only one copy of his testimony for the committee. There are 20 representatives on the committee.

Next up was Rep. Mark Warden, a Republican and Free Stater. Warden tells us that this is all about freedom of choice! Choice is good for society. He compared this bill to a woman’s right to choose, and to marriage equality. As a liberty guy, he favors choice! He praises those who refuse to be bullied!

As a liberty guy who loves choice, he didn’t do so well in voting to defend women’s choices. He voted to prohibit the state from contracting with Planned Parenthood. He voted to repeal insurance coverage for midwives. He avoided voting on all of the rest of the antiabortion/antiwoman bills that were presented last year. He also avoided voting for the GOP repeal of NH’s marriage equality law. He did vote to allow businesses to discriminate against gay couples. He avoided voting on leaving NH’s marriage equality law in place. When it comes to putting his vote where all that choice is, Brave Sir Robin is an absentee.

Representative Cebrowski is a sponsor because he’s on the Finance Committee, and it breaks his heart every year to listen to the people from various underfunded departments and programs ask for money that we just don’t have. If we pass right to work, our business tax revenues will increase so that we might give “a little” to UNH. Or to fund CHINS. They’re all legitimate needs, and he wants to meet those needs.

Rep. Richardson asked him what percentage of private sector jobs are unionized? Cebrowski didn’t know. The Chairman (Rep. White) asked where on the DRED list of things companies want does RTW fall? They haven’t talked about that, says Cebrowski.

Next up, Al Baldasaro and his stream of consciousness. His father was a union guy in Massachusetts. Back then it was voluntary. Then the Teamsters took over and forced union membership. It is Al’s GOD GIVEN right to make his own decisions about where his money goes. His girlfriend has a job in MA that is union and it’s KILLING HER. We stand for FREEDOM here in NH. We have to open our eyes and take a look at our tax structure! (On that Al and I agree.) This has to do with FREEDOM. A vote against this is a vote against the little guy. His daughter works in Boston. His son works in Maine. His kids won’t come back here because there’s nothing here. But this isn’t about the unions this is about FREEDOM. We have to look out for the little people!

Rep. Kelly from the committee asked him if MA, where his daughter works is a RTW state. He really, REALLY didn’t want to answer that. She asks if Maine, where his son works is an RTW state. Again, he really didn’t want to say no.

Rep. Richardson asked if Baldasaro could give him a list of companies that are waiting in line to see this bill get passed. Al can’t and he’s miffed about it. He’s sure though, that if we give business a reason to come here, they will.

Rep. Weed: “You keep saying this is about jobs. Are you speaking of minimum wage jobs? Are you aware that those states with RTW job growth have low wage jobs?” Baldasaro: Would you prefer to have someone work at Wal-Mart or go to a good paying job? Apparently he’s not aware that Wal-Mart isn’t a union shop.

As for freedom – we all know that Rep. Baldasaro is a huge proponent of freedom for white, heterosexual men.

The hearing went from 9:30 am to 12:15 pm. There was a lot of testimony. I’m going to just hit some of the high points – or the flat out weird parts.

During AFL-CIO President Mark McKenzie’s questioning by the committee Rep. Will Infantine used the phrase “no tickee, no washee.” Will members of the Free State Project call for his censure and impeachment for using racist terminology? Don’t hold your breath!

Former Rep. David Welch was a former union guy in MA. He signed a pledge last session to vote for RTW. Then he learned more about the union presence in NH, and given how small it is, couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. There was no problem in this state with unions, he decided. He pointed out at this hearing that that decision cost him his re-election. “All those emails I got about union thugs…it turns out the thugs weren’t in the unions.”

During his testimony, business owner Jon Bresler asked if there was a single businessperson in the room to testify in favor RTW. There was not.

Pamela Ian compared the fight for right to work to the fight to end slavery. Free Staters don’t fear grandiosity.

John Kalb of the New England Citizens for Right to Work expressed a lot of concern for the little guy. That little guy needs a pay cut, bad.

Rep. Richardson asked Kalb what the percentage of private enterprise in NH with union membership. As it turns out, it’s 4.5%. In his haste to mitigate the damage done by the revelation of how tiny that number is, Mr. Kalb waxed on about the great businesses in this country that aren’t union shops. Businesses like Goldman Sachs.  At that, the visitor section went wild. Goldman Sachs? The derision must have been heard at the Barley House.

It was a long hearing. I learned that low wage jobs are the answer to NH prayers. I learned that “looking out for the little guy,” means ensuring he gets a lousy paycheck. What better way to show you care?  I also learned that those who favor RTW appear to believe that it is a magic unicorn that will, once enacted, bring millions of jobs to our state. The fact that this isn’t true doesn’t concern them. The fact that they would be low wage jobs doesn’t concern them. They see auto jobs going to southern states, and think that it’s RTW that is the cause.

It doesn’t occur to them that southern states have lower energy costs. Better infrastructure. Better access to shipping ports.

If NH passed RTW tomorrow, we’d still have the highest energy costs in the Northeast. We’d still have the 11th worst infrastructure in the nation. We’d still have some of the highest property taxes in the nation. We’d still rank 50th in the nation in state spending on our university system.

It’s not RTW that holds us back. 


Chris Blodgett said...

Excellent posting, Susan!

victoria said...

Have to say I'm really enjoying reading your posts on the committee hearings - they're detailed, insightful, with just enough humor sprinkled in. You're providing a real service for those of us who haven't been able to get there yet.

susanthe said...

Thank you Victoria.

Anonymous said...

Another excellent and insightful narrative that educates us! Obie ("I don't knowbie) and gang are really grasping at straws. And it is no less astonishing that a parent with two working children is complaining about the fact that they have work. One can't help but wonder how the RTW is a mere red herring considering that it has nothing to do with lack of work for other individuals. These so called Free Staters belong to so many run of the mill self entitled and self important individuals who think they are above and better than anyone else. It's tantamount to a cult. They are all part of the problem and no doubt didn't care about the over bloated size of world population that is the root cause of all economic and social woes. We are all muscling and elbowing for more - jobs, space, peace, resources. It's finite and coming to an end. They have neither the brains nor the insight to see further than their own toilet needs.