Testimony in Opposition to HB 402
Dexter Arnold February 17, 2015
I live in Nashua. I am a member of UAW Local 1981, and I strongly oppose HB 402. HB402 is bad public policy that flunks a truth in advertising test. This bill is not about individual rights, which are already well protected. This bill’s sole purpose is to weaken New Hampshire workers’ ability to have a say over their jobs and working conditions. It is improper state interference with the collective bargaining process.
More than ninety years ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former President and conservative Republican, who was no friend of unions, stated that “a single employee was helpless in dealing with an employer.” That’s the key issue at stake in this bill. By requiring a state-mandated open shop, HB 402 targets the core of what unionism is all about – that together, workers are able to do accomplish things that they can’t do as individuals
I want to talk briefly from personal and family experience. My father and grandfather were New Hampshire natives. They were lifelong Republicans. And they were local union presidents. Their union responsibilities were in addition to their fulltime jobs as a printer and a machinist. They understood that unions are a way that workers can accomplish together what they cannot do as individuals. That’s why they got together with others to organize their local unions in Nashua. They believed in personal responsibility and did not confuse individual liberty with demanding a free ride on someone else’s back. They certainly would have felt that it was inappropriate to make free rides state policy.
I also want to make a point based on my own experience as vice president and grievance chair in a union that did not have a fair-share agreement. When they had problems, non-members who were paying nothing for representation had no problem coming to the union and drawing on its resources for help. As a grievance representative, I handled and won several such cases.
One case sticks in my mind. It involved a new hire who was severely misclassified – so much so that she would have lost several thousand dollars a year and been ineligible for benefits. When she spoke to management about this, they dismissed her concerns, so she brought it to our attention. She was angry – “How can you let this happen? What’s the union going to do about this?” We told her it was the first we’d heard of it, and that we’d investigate.
We worked hard on her case and won her the proper classification. She received the pay she was supposed to get and health insurance. We were able to do so because of new contract language that we had made a bargaining priority a year before.
She benefited from our ability to negotiate and enforce a contract. That representation – bargaining and enforcing a contract – is what is covered by the fair-share union-security clauses that HB 402 would outlaw.
But again, we didn’t have a fair-share clause. And she was quite content to remain a free-rider and to contribute nothing towards her representation. But I bet we’d have heard from her if she had had another problem.
That’s the reality of an open shop situation. That open-shop reality should not be imposed on all New Hampshire workers by a legislative mandate that interferes with negotiations between New Hampshire workers and employers. I urge you to reject HB 402 as Inexpedient to Legislate.