---- — CONCORD (AP) — The New Hampshire Senate rejected legislation yesterday that would excuse nonunion employees from paying fees to negotiate and administer contracts.
The Senate voted, 13-11, to kill the bill, with all 11 Democrats opposing the bill plus two Republicans.
New Hampshire labor leaders opposed the bill — the latest attempt to permit nonunion employees to abstain from paying union dues. Legislators routinely rejected similar bills until the GOP-dominated Legislature passed one in 2011. Former Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, vetoed the bill, and lawmakers failed to override his rejection.
Supporters argued it is wrong to force workers to pay the fees as a condition of employment even if it is part of a collective bargaining agreement negotiated between workers and their employer.
Sen. Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, said so-called right-to-work states outshine others in economic development.
“The best benefit of all that we can give people is a job,” said Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro.
Opponents said it is an attack on unions and their efforts to protect the middle class.
“Collective bargaining agreements give workers the opportunity to get a fair wage and benefits,” said Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester.
He noted that only about 11 percent of New Hampshire workers belong to a union.
Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, said that right-to-work laws play a clever trick on workers by acting like they are better off alone than in a union. He said that makes it easier for employers to pay them less.
“It’s a culture that sees workers as an expense, not an asset,” he said.
The bill would have ended the practice of allowing unions and employers to negotiate a clause in contracts requiring nonunion members to pay a share of collective bargaining costs. Under the bill, anyone who intimidated nonmembers would have been guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a $1,000 fine. Anyone harmed by a violation could seek civil damages, including attorneys’ fees.
In 2011, then Republican House Speaker William O’Brien played a cat-and-mouse game with union workers who rallied week after week to urge the bill’s defeat. When the override vote was finally taken that November, the House sustained Lynch’s veto by 12 votes. Each side accused the other of using bullying and intimidation tactics.
Since then, two other attempts to pass similar bills have failed.
Federal law requires unions to negotiate on behalf of both union and nonunion members. Workers do not have to join unions under New Hampshire law.