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A Conservative’s Guide to the “Right to Work” Bill

He didn’t talk much about it during his campaign, but apparently the so-called “Right to Work” bill is a top priority of incoming NH Governor Chris Sununu.  The Senate will hold a hearing on his bill this Tuesday – January 10, 2017 – starting at 1:00 pm in the State House, Representatives’ Hall.

Let’s start with the name: “Right to Work”

Do you take citizens’ rights seriously? Then you avoid political rhetoric that would create new “rights.”  Conservatives reject talk about “the right to health care” or “the right to housing” because those “rights” aren’t enumerated in the Constitution.  Neither is “the right to work.”

Yes, the name makes it easy to sell to the public.  Here’s how the Alabama Media Group described Amendment 8: “It also provides you with a plain-spoken, air-tight constitutional right to hold a job and earn a living for yourself and your loved ones.”

Think about that.  “An air-tight, constitutional right to hold a job.”  In a state where four counties have unemployment rates of 10% or more.  What’s going to happen when all those unemployed Alabama citizens want government to deliver on their “right to work”?

SB 11 doesn’t give Granite Staters “the right to work.”  Pretending that it does – just to get the bill passed – dishonors the citizens’ rights that our country was founded on.

Look at what the bill actually does.

“Right to Work” legislation prohibits businesses from negotiating “fair share” provisions into their employment contracts.  Dress the bill up with any title you want – that’s still what it does.  It adds a new layer of government regulation between businesses and their employees.

Under the law right now, employers that want “fair share” provisions in their contracts are allowed to have them.  Remember last time around, when employers testified against this bill?

Employers that don’t want “fair share” provisions don’t have to have them.   The choice is entirely up to the particular employer.

“Right to Work” legislation takes away the employer’s right to make that choice – and substitutes the government’s judgment, instead.

That’s government overreach – not a conservative value.

It restricts employers’ rights to set conditions of employment.

The “Right to Work” bill also creates a troubling legal precedent, by restricting employers’ ability to set terms and conditions of employment.

Under the law right now, employers can require their employees to make “fair share” payments as a condition of employment.  Again, this is entirely the employer’s choice – not the government’s.  (At least, right now it is.)

Right now, employers can require their employees to do all sorts of things as a condition of employment.  Employees can be required to contribute to health insurance costs, or to contribute to a company’s pension plan.  Employees can be required to be members of a particular professional association; or, they can be fired if they join certain organizations the employer doesn’t want to be affiliated with.

But “Right to Work” is a camel’s nose.  If New Hampshire starts down this path, where is it going to stop?  If this Legislature prohibits employers from requiring employees to pay “fair share” contributions, what keeps future Legislatures from prohibiting employee contributions for health insurance?

“Right to Work” encroaches on employers’ rights – and conservatives know: that’s wrong.

It’s probably unconstitutional.

Unions have to represent all employees in the bargaining unit – whether those employees are members of the union, or not.  Right now, unions have the ability – if employers agree – to negotiate contracts with “fair share” provisions so that all employees pay the cost of providing representation.  “Right to Work” takes that possibility away.

Under “Right to Work,” unions are required to provide representation, without being allowed to charge for it.  That’s like lawyers being required to provide legal representation, but leaving it up to their clients to decide whether or not to voluntarily pay for it.  It raises all sorts of Fifth Amendment issues that the Courts are just starting to consider.

Government requiring a private entity to provide its product or services for free goes against everything conservatives believe.  It’s just plain wrong.

It’s a classic example of “government by special interests”

Remember Kevin Landrigan’s expose of political contributions by the National Right to Work Committee?

Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that this is suddenly Gov. Sununu’s top priority, even though it wasn’t a big campaign issue.

“Right to Work” is a priority for Virginia-based Americans for Prosperity, which is quietly pushing aside the GOP.  In Kentucky, AFP “made over 473,000 phone calls and knocked on over 45,000 doors” in support of state legislative candidates – and the newly-elected Kentucky legislators rewarded that support by immediately passing “Right to Work” last Saturday.

How much support did AFP give to the Sununu campaign?  There’s no way to tell – it’s not registered with the state either as a political party or a political advocacy organization, and at the federal level it is registered as a 501(c)4 “social welfare” organization, so it doesn’t regularly disclose how it spends money or who its donors are.

Without knowing how much support AFP gave to the Sununu campaign, there’s no way to tell how much he thinks he owes them.

But what we do know is that during this election, AFP spent money opposing about a dozen NH Republicans, including Hampstead Rep. Joseph Guthrie, Manchester Rep. Mark Proulx, Salem Rep. Fred Doucette and Sanbornton Rep. Dennis Fields.

It’s not a New Hampshire priority.

“Right to Work” has been considered – and rejected – by the New Hampshire legislature for the past three decades.  Last time around:

  • Our Labor Commissioner testified that he had spoken to about 2,000 business owners during his six years in office – and not one of them suggested the state should adopt “Right to Work.”
  • Our Resources and Economic Development Commissioner said he had met with thousands of businesses over the years – and not once had “Right to Work” ever come up in his discussions, either with current NH businesses or with companies considering moving here.
  • Even the Governor said “In the last seven years of recruiting businesses to move to New Hampshire, not one business leader has ever asked me if New Hampshire had a right-to-work law, let alone suggested it was a factor in the company’s location decision…The debate over the so-called right-to-work bill in New Hampshire appears to be largely driven by national outside interest groups, and is not a result of problems facing New Hampshire businesses or workers.”

It’s not a New Hampshire priority.  So why is it first-out-of-the-box for our brand-new Governor and Legislature?  Is it because of AFP “investment” in our state campaigns?

Do Granite Staters really want a government that puts AFP’s priorities first??

We’ve already repealed it once.

Sherman Adams
NH Governor 1949 – 1953
Chief of Staff to President Dwight Eisenhower 1953 – 1958

New Hampshire adopted a “Right to Work” bill back in 1947.

But it didn’t last long; it was repealed in 1949 by a Republican-led Legislature and a Republican Governor.

Have New Hampshire’s conservative values really changed that much since then?





About NH Labor News

The New Hampshire Labor News is a group of NH Workers who believe that we need to protect ourselves against the attacks on workers. We are proud union members who are working to preserve the middle class. The NHLN talks mostly about news and politics from NH. We also talk about national issues that effect working men and women here in the Granite State.
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