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N.H. Gov. Vetoes Right-to-Work Bill, Gains Some Republican Support

May 17, 2011

N.H. state house senate chambers

With a hard-hitting May 11 statement, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch vetoed a right-to-work bill passed by Republican majorities in the state legislature.

Lynch wrote:


There is no compelling public interest in passing this legislation. There is no evidence that this legislation will offer any benefits to New Hampshire’s economy or workers…In the last seven years of recruiting businesses to move to New Hampshire, not one business leader has ever asked me if New Hampshire had a right-to-work law, let alone suggested it was a factor in the company’s location decision…The debate over the so-called right-to-work bill in New Hampshire appears to be largely driven by national outside interest groups, and is not a result of problems facing New Hampshire businesses or workers.


Weighing in on Lynch’s side was a former Republican state senator, Mark Housnell. In an op-ed in the Concord Monitor, “I Was Wrong on Right-to-Work,” Housnell, who served in office from 1984 to 1988 wrote:


Labor unions have served New Hampshire’s middle class well. It has been union initiatives that produced a 40-hour work week, overtime pay, vacations and holidays, sick days, safe workplaces, health benefits, retirement and pensions and many other worker benefits. To weaken unions is to weaken New Hampshire’s economy and weaken our middle class.

Glenn Brackett, business manager of Manchester Local 2320, has accompanied Hounsell to the state capital where they have lobbied against Republican-led efforts to override the governor’s veto.  He says:


Mark Hounsell was a staunch conservative who received campaign funds from the National Right-to Work Foundation. He now feels that he made a great mistake and is an eloquent and passionate spokesperson against this legislation.

The vote on whether to override the veto is expected to be close, says Brackett. The National Right-to-Work Foundation, he says, has exploited the libertarian sentiments of the state by making the issue one of whether workers have “personal freedom” to join unions or opt out.


The irony, says Brackett, is that Republican House Speaker William O'Brien is exercising near-dictatorial power to keep his own caucus from supporting the governor’s action. Says Brackett:


O’Brien belligerently removes Republican members of committees before votes if they don’t support his agenda. He removed Rep. Lee Quandt, a former state union member, from the powerful Finance Committee because he refused to support his party’s budget proposal and right-to-work legislation. 

On his Web site, Quandt explains why he opposes the right-to-work and supports public workers:


… In a 20-year period [state employees] gave up pay raises for eight of those years to keep our medical (which is a very good program). As a state probation/parole officer I was willing to work for less money than the private sector to insure Dorrie and the kids had good insurance. That is all well and good when the economy is doing good and NH has traditionally done better than the majority; but, when the economy goes bad, like this recession, then the private sector jobs and benefits are reduced and the right wing groups start complaining about the pay and benefits of the public sector...

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user J. Stephen Conn.