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New Hampshire Activists Defend ‘Fair Share’ Dues Check-Off

February 25, 2011

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Joe Casey, business manager of Dover, N.H., Local 490, hasn’t seen many months as difficult or busy as the past two.  With control of the state’s legislature moving into the hands of anti-worker ideologues in November, Casey, president of the state’s building and construction trades, quickly mobilized opposition to the passage of a “right-to-work” bill in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Local 490 members were among 300 activists and citizens who testified in hearings against right-to-work. One-by-one, they stood up against the measure that would divide and weaken all state workers by compelling unions to represent employees who refuse to pay their fair share through dues check-off.

While only about 25 people showed up to support right-to-work, it nevertheless passed in the House.

Right-to-work now heads to the state senate, with the bill expected to cross between legislative chambers in March. Democratic  Gov.  John Lynch has pledged to veto the bill. Activists are now meeting with legislators, lobbying to secure enough votes to sustain a veto. 

Casey questioned whether New Hampshire’s workers will be treated fairly, asking whether state politics will be controlled by corporate interests and a growing number of super-wealthy new residents who have migrated there because there are no sales or income taxes. Good paying jobs could be at risk, he said.

Prior to November, it looked like construction workers would benefit building a new Job Corps Center on the first-ever federal project labor agreement in New Hampshire.

But today, newly-elected anti-worker legislators like U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, one of the sponsors of a losing congressional measure to ban all project labor agreements, are pushing the U.S. Department of Labor to permanently cancel the PLA.  The Department of Labor is commissioning a study of the issue by an independent contractor.


Guinta told the state’s largest newspaper, the Union Leader, a PLA on the Job Corps Center would require that only union trades be allowed to work on the project.  He said that would make it more expensive.  In a sharp response, Casey said:

PLAs in no way, shape or form mandate union contractors or employees. That is absolute spin. It mandates only that local residents work on a project and that they receive wages and benefits commensurate with those received by unionized workers.

Getting the perspective of construction workers into public view and opposing parochial thinking on the part of some state citizens is not new for Casey. 

Two years ago, in an op-ed published in the Nashua Telegraph, Casey explained the building trades support for the Northern Pass transmission project—still under consideration in public hearings—that would build 180 miles of new power lines to import low-cost, clean energy from Canada through New Hampshire.

While some conservationists remain opposed to the transmission lines because of their impact on state forests, Casey points to the estimated 1,200 jobs that would be created in a state where construction unemployment exceeds 20 percent. He says:

The same “not in my backyard” opposition that has fought countless job- creation projects in New Hampshire has once again emerged and places self-interests above the long-term welfare of our state’s economy, children and working families.


Photo used under a Creative Commons license from flickr user zachstern.