Statement on SB 11, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union
January 10, 2017
I am Arnie Alpert, Co-Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program. I am also a member of UNITE-HERE Local 66L and the UNITE-HERE New England Joint Board. I am pleased to be able to appear before you today both as a union member and as a representative of my employer to urge your rejection of the so-called “right to work” bill.
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that turns 100 years old this year. Throughout almost our entire history, going back to 1922 when we provided humanitarian assistance to unemployed coal miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, we have assisted working people who have sought to better their lives and working conditions. In 1936, a year after President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, the AFSC Social-Industrial Section drafted a statement “on the attitude that the AFSC should take towards organized labor.” The statement noted, in part:
Collective bargaining by groups of workers with employers is therefore desirable in order that workers may meet management on something like equal terms when they bargain for rates of pay, conditions of work, and security of employment.
Since then, from the textile mills of North Carolina to the orange groves of Florida to the grape fields of California, to the maquiladora factories along the Mexican border, and in countless kitchens and construction sites, the AFSC has stood with people who have sought employment, living wages, and dignity on the job.
The ability of working people to attain a decent standard of living is threatened in our country and in our state. According to the NH Housing Finance Authority, the statewide median rent of a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire was $1206 in 2016. That means it takes an income of more than $48,000 a year to afford a typical apartment. That’s more than three times what a worker makes at the current minimum wage.
If the purpose of SB 11 was to provide jobs at decent wages so that working people could afford decent housing, we would be enthusiastic about it. But what is called “right to work” is not about ensuring that all people have the right to a decent job. To the contrary, it is about undermining the ability of working people to organize among themselves and bargain collectively with their employers.
By making it more difficult for workers to organize, “right to work” would force down the wage levels of all working people in New Hampshire. The ability to afford health care would be threatened. The ability to pay taxes to support schools would be diminished. The state’s housing crisis would intensify. More people would seek public assistance.
Over the years, in this country and around the world, the American Friends Service Committee has observed that strong unions help their members better their wages and working conditions, but also can be powerful advocates for human rights and a better standard of living for everyone.
If you are interested in reducing poverty and giving more people access to decent jobs, you should recommend this bill inexpedient to legislate.