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Archive for May 25th, 2011

NH House 5-25-11 012

“Work Without Rights” Loses a Battle

New Hampshire’s Speaker of the House, William O’Brien, adjourned today’s session without a vote on the controversial Right-to-Work-for-Less bill because he lacked the two-thirds majority needed to over-ride Governor Lynch’s veto. NH House 5-25-11 017

Today’s victory is testimony to the hard work done by unions and pro-labor groups to communicate with Representatives, including Republicans who have voted against the bill. 

The Speaker had spent recent weeks using his special powers of persuasion to cajole recalcitrant Republicans to vote with him or “take a walk” and abstain from voting.  He will no doubt keep trying, but in the process he may try the patience of even his supporters, many of whom would like to move on to other issues and are tired of getting phone calls about right-to-NH House 5-25-11 024work. 

Mark MacKenzie, president of the NH AFL-CIO, spoke before a crowd of sign-waving activists outside the Speaker’s office after O’Brien held another private news conference.

By the way, this blogger was kept out of the news conference by a member of O’Brien’s staff.  One irony is that his rhetoric has often lifted up New Hampshire’s sovereignty and the primacy of the State’s Constitution.  In that document, Article 22 says:

Free speech and liberty of the press are essential to the security of freedom in a state: They ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved.

Prior the the legislative session, a couple dozen RTW supporters waved signs on the State House Plaza.  They were greatly outnumbered by pro-labor activists from numerous unions supplemented by Protect NH Families, NH Citizens Alliance, Working Families Win, and several faith-based groups.  Lunch was served from a giant Teamsters truck, parked outside the State House. 

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Last week the Speaker suffered a political defeat when Democrat Jennifer DaleNH House 5-25-11 001r won a special election for a House seat in his own district.  The outcome coincides with yesterday’s victory by Kathy Hochul in a NY State Congressional election.  Is it possible that the wave of reactionary Tea Party politics has crested?

Regardless, New Hampshire labor activists can’t afford to rest.  Right-to-Work (which could be re-titled “Work Without Rights”) is not yet dead.  The Speaker controls the House agenda, and can put off an over-ride vote until the end of the year if he chooses.

Senators have removed proposals to strip public sector workers of collective bargaining rights from the fine print of budget and pension bills.  But House and Senate negotiators have agreed to set up a “study committee” on public employee collective bargaining.  Members of the study committee will be appointed by legislative leaders, whose views of workers’ human rights range from moderately hostile to extremely hostile. 

So it may be a long summer.   And a long time to the next election. 

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