January 20, 2017
Yesterday, the NH Senate passed SB 11, the so-called ‘right to work’ bill, by a vote of 12-11. Ten Democratic senators were joined by Republican Senator Sharon Carson in opposing the bill, while one Republican Senator, Robert Guida, was absent and did not vote. By this action, the Republican majority in the NH Senate (excepting Senator Carson) makes clear where it stands. Their aim is to weaken organized labor and the ability of working people to negotiate collectively and have a powerful voice in the workplace. When organized labor is strong, working people are strong, wages rise, benefits improve, and there is greater mutual respect and equality in the workplace. ‘Right to work’ intends to reverse gains made in New Hampshire over nearly the past fifty years, and in tandem with other legislation, will turn New Hampshire into the low-wage haven of New England.
The battle over ‘right to work’ now moves to the NH House, where it is expected that the Senate bill (SB 11) and the identical House version (HB 520 ) will be examined jointly in a hearing before the House Labor Committee, possibly as early as February 8. When one of the bills would then reach the floor of the House for a vote is not yet clear, but at least one of the measures would likely be brought forward prior to the Legislature’s usual winter break in the final week of February.
What does this mean for us? It means we must redouble our efforts to rally public opposition to this anti-working families legislation and we must each commit ourselves and our co-workers to identify the NH House members who represent us, contact them, and make our position clear and our voices heard. Phone calls, emails, letters and petitions will all be in play over the next few weeks, so tighten your seat belts—it will be a rough ride! You can start by visiting the AFT-NH website, clicking on ‘State House News’ under the ‘2017 State House’ tab, and scroll down to where you can search out the names of your NH Senator and Representatives. Knowing who they are is Step 1, before we initiate further actions. And while there, please browse the AFT-NH website—there is much useful information on so-called ‘right to work’ and other issues of concern to us.
In other legislative news, HB 438, prohibiting public sector automatic union dues withholding from paychecks has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in front of the House Labor Committee. Advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ like to claim they are defending individual choice (to free-load) but with HB 438, no such figleaf or specious justification exists. This is direct and undisguised attempt to destroy the ability of labor unions to collect dues from their members in a convenient and simple manner, negotiated via their collective bargaining agreements. Keep this bill in your sights—it is crucial that we defeat it.
A number of bills regarding the NH Retirement System will have their House committee hearings next week. These early hearings are on bills that utilize a variety of strategies to reduce the heavy burdens being placed on public employers (cities, towns, school districts) across New Hampshire due to the State’s refusal to share the burdens and make ANY contributions into the NHRS. Assaults on the NHRS itself will come in future weeks, when proposed legislation reducing benefits or even dismantling the NHRS will come up for hearings.
The final deadline for House bills to be introduced is January 27th. The AFT-NH Bill Watch list is posted on our website and will be updated regularly.
Finally, in the area of education, we have had committee hearings on bills authorizing the State Board of Education to implement a code of ethics for certified teaching personnel, mandating a minimal two-week notice regarding curricular materials on human sexuality, and a proposal to repeal the education tax credit program benefiting charter and private schools. Education Committee actions have not yet been reported on these bills, and we will continue to monitor them as we move deeper into the legislative session. And no account of education-related activity in Concord would be complete without noting Governor Sununu’s nomination of Frank Edelblut as NH Education Commissioner. Given Edelblut’s complete lack of any education experience (he is an accountant by profession) and his clear support for siphoning public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, this is a nomination that deeply concerns AFT-NH and likely the entire education community in NH. So stay tuned—we will be asking your help to mobilize opposition to his confirmation by the Executive Council.