Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Right to Work Back on Track in New Hampshire

Late last year, House lawmakers in the Granite State failed to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of legislation barring unions from imposing “a share of costs” on non-members, also known as “right-to-work.” The House fell 12 votes short of the two-thirds necessary to put the option before New Hampshire’s Senate.

Now, however, similar legislation is back and was passed in the NH House. In addition to the proposal ensuring that non-union members need not pay fees to unions, legislators will consider new measures aimed at reforming collective bargaining among public sector unions.

Another contentious debate is on the way. Critics of the legislation see New Hampshire falling under the sway of a national anti-union political agenda. Supporters counter that the political power of unions, including public-sector unions, is far out of bounds even by the standards of Democratic heroes like Franklin Roosevelt.

“House Bill 1677 is about freedom. Freedom to choose or not to choose to join a union,” said Rep. Will Smith, the Republican who introduced the bill.

What’s revealed by a clear-eyed look at New Hampshire’s legislation and similar bills around the country? Rather than an anti-union animus, the legislation reflects a broad, popular understanding that labor laws need reform—not to destroy unions, but to ensure that they work the way workers expect them to.

The reappearance of labor reform legislation in New Hampshire and its spread throughout the Midwest suggests that increasing numbers of legislators and voters believe that encouraging unions to accurately and faithfully represent the interests of those who choose to be their members should be a priority in today’s economy.

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