Somehow, Anne Feeney’s song, “War on the Workers,” keeps coming to mind. The good news is that workers and their allies are fighting back.
Yesterday, the NH Senate heard testimony on HB 589, a House-backed bill to repeal the public sector card check law passed a few years ago. Using card check, or “majority authorization,” workers can win union recognition when a majority of them sign cards saying they want to unionize. Sounds simple and reasonable to me. After all, the right to form a union belongs to the workers, not the bosses.
Arriving late for yesterday’s hearing, I missed the presentation of a rationale for this offensive measure, but arrived in time for strong testimony from Janice Dunnington and Mary Lee Sargent, both members of a new union of adjunct faculty in the community college system.
The adjunct faculty have been working for about $10 an hour, without benefits, Janice explained. “We had absolutely no say in our working conditions,” Mary Lee added. Having tried, without success, to get their issues resolved by talking to supervisors and department heads, they approached the State Employees Union (part of SEIU Local 1984) for help forming a union.
Under the current law, public sector workers can petition for a union election when 30% of the bargaining unit members sign cards, or they can pursue majority authorization. In the latter system, collection of cards from more than 50% of workers leads to recognition of the union.
Douglas Ingersoll of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board, which has not taken a position on the bill, explained that the card check system is easier and less expensive to administer.
In the case of the community college faculty, the system worked to the benefit of the union. That’s why anti-union legislators want to get rid of it.
But “the system isn’t broken,” Janice said, and “it doesn’t need to be fixed.”
Also yesterday, Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien said he is trying to unify the GOP caucus in support of the odious “Right-to-Work For LESS” bill, HB 474. Gov. Lynch is expected to stamp his veto on it today. The Speaker, who is becoming known as “Bully O’Brien,” said he plans an over-ride vote on May 24.
Fortunately, he is not the only one working to persuade legislators. A busy campaign of union activists and allies is working on the same list of Republican Representatives who voted against the initial bill, voted against the motion to reconcile different House and Senate versions, or didn’t vote at all. Protect NH Families is planning a lobby day May 18.
Other measures to restrict collective bargaining are included in House proposals on the budget and pensions.
As Anne Feeney says, “It’s a war on the workers.”