EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 5, 2011

NH House approves right-to-work bill

By Doug Ireland

The House passed legislation yesterday that unions say would take away workers' rights, but Gov. John Lynch said he intends to veto the bill.

The controversial right-to-work bill was approved, 225-140. The Senate approved the measure last month.

But Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said the governor will veto House Bill 474 once it hits his desk.

"The governor does not believe the state should dictate the terms of a contract negotiated between private employers and their employees, which is what this bill would do," Manning said. "That is why the governor will veto the bill."

The House's vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a gubernatorial veto. An additional 14 votes were needed yesterday to ensure an override is possible, according to Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, one of the bill's sponsors.

Thirty-one House members were absent or didn't vote yesterday. That means an override is still possible if Lynch does veto the bill, according to Baldasaro.

"We'll make sure we override the governor's veto," he said. "Why would he want to veto it and not bring jobs to New Hampshire?"

The bill would prohibit unions and employers from negotiating clauses in contracts to require non-union members to pay a portion of collective bargaining costs.

Federal law requires unions to negotiate on behalf of both union and non-union members. Under state law, employees do not have to join unions.

Baldasaro said it's a victory for New Hampshire.

"I think it is a good vote for freedom because it prevents people from having to join a union and pay dues," he said. "I think it's a win-win."

He accused Lynch of siding with labor unions in exchange for financial support.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, praised the bill's passage, as did House Speaker William O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon.

"The legislation is about protecting the New Hampshire advantage and making New Hampshire the most competitive state in the Northeast, Bettencourt said in the joint statement."

He said it would give the state another advantage in terms of attracting business.

"I certainly hope that the governor considers the economic growth this bill will bring and signs this into law," Bettencourt said, "making job creation a higher priority than special interests."

Labor officials criticized the passage, urging Lynch to veto the bill.

The legislation jeopardizes job-based health insurance, pensions and worker safety programs, according to the State Employees Association.

The union said the bill dictates to employers how to run their business, and prevents employers and employees from negotiating contracts.

"We saw many good legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, stand strong for workers rights and fair share of resources by opposing this legislation," association president Diana Lacey said in a statement. "The governor has indicated that he will veto the bill, and we look forward to seeing the red ink rejecting this attack on the middle class."

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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