New Hampshire union activists rally outside the Capitol in Concord on Feb. 22 to urge arriving members of the Republican-led House of Representatives to vote "no" on right-to-work. The 212-168 defeat was one of the largest margins of victory in the decades that anti-union forces have been pushing for a right-to-work law.

The IBEW and fellow unions in New Hampshire maintained their decades-long winning streak against right-to-work during the 2024 legislative session, with both the GOP-led House and Senate voting down the latest versions of the anti-worker bill.

Winding down the latest battle by New Hampshire unions to defeat right-to-work, state AFL-CIO President and former Local 2320 Business Manager Glenn Brackett rallies an early morning crowd outside the Capitol building in Concord on the day of the House vote in February.
The IBEW contingent included Local 1837 Business Manager Tony Sapienza, middle, flanked by Local 1837 retirees Rick Simons, left, and Mike Pare.

An April 5 vote to table the Senate bill came six weeks after labor’s essential victory in the House of Representatives, where the 212-168 defeat also put an end to debate on right to work until the chamber’s 2025 session.

IBEW leaders said personal contact by union members and retirees was the key to success, with as few as two or three phone calls enough to persuade lawmakers who'd been on the fence.

"When you have a legislature this big, some of the people are really only plugged into the issues that are dear to their heart," said Tony Sapienza, business manager of Manchester, Maine, Local 1837, which has jurisdiction in New Hampshire.

"This is a party issue," he said. "But if you explain to the lawmaker that the law is mislabeled, that 'right to work' is a misnomer and that it actually hurts workers and creates regulation, it's eye-opening for them."

New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett said labor's margin of victory in the House was the biggest he recalls in his 30-plus years battling right-to-work — starting as an activist member of Manchester, N.H., Local 2320 and rising to business manager before taking on his current role.

He emphasized that personal outreach was crucial, not just in 2024 but over the past decade. "For the last nine years, seven of them have been a Republican House, Republican Senate and Republican governor, and we've been able to beat them back every year," Brackett said.

New Hampshire locals invest time and resources to ensure that their members understand the dangers of right-to-work, which allows workers to reap the rewards of a bargaining unit without paying anything toward the costs of representation. Fewer resources weaken unions' power to negotiate better wages, benefits and safety conditions.

While proponents claim that the laws spur economic growth, data overwhelmingly show less investment, fewer jobs and lower wages in right-to-work states.

"Education is key, making the members aware how directly it affects them," Dover Local 490 Business Manager Eric Batchelor said. "Certain bills out there don't touch their lives, but right-to-work literally goes after their pocket. They need to know how detrimental it could be to their livelihoods."

The local hammers home the message through monthly meetings, all manner of social media, email and regular mail. "Every which way we can other than a carrier pigeon," Batchelor said with a laugh.

Local 490 also invited a group of Republican House members to tour its IBEW-NECA training center, showing them the kind of state-of-the-art investment that healthy unions are able to make in their communities. "They thought it was fantastic," Batchelor said.

The creativity, preparation and tenacity that IBEW members and their union allies bring to the perpetual battle drew high praise from Second District International Vice President Mike Monahan.

"Our opponents keep swinging, and we keep striking them out," Monahan said. "All these years fighting the same fight, and somehow our members bring fresh energy and strategies every single time. I couldn't be prouder of them."

He also thanked local and district staff, with a special shout-out to Second District International Representative Joe Casey, formerly Local 490's business manager. "Joe has been fighting right-to-work it seems his whole life," he said. "He remembers fighting it in childhood when his father, Jim, was business manager of Local 490."

The flip side of labor's grassroots efforts was the well-funded campaign bankrolled by anti-union billionaires who routinely interfere with state and local politics across the country.

Outside groups bring their right-to-work crusade to New Hampshire every two-year election cycle. But what is typically knee-jerk advocacy from businesses for right-to-work has softened in the state over the years, replaced by a mix of views and even staunch opponents.

That wasn't the case, however, for a lawmaker who told Brackett he'd heard from several electrical contractors urging him to vote in favor of right-to-work. "He was looking for a reason to vote 'no' but he hadn't heard from our side yet," Brackett said. "We put the word out and the IBEW buried him in phone calls."

Meanwhile, other contractors have come around to the point of testifying against the bill at the Capitol in Concord.

"When you talk to them about the government having no business getting between private-sector employers and their contracts with workers, that resonates with them," Brackett said. "We had contractors from a lot of the trades basically telling lawmakers, 'We like the relationship we have with our workforce.'"

In testimony and one-on-one conversations, labor activists made clear to legislators that existing laws already protect workers from being forced to join unions or pay dues, while allowing unions to collect a smaller fee from nonmembers to cover the direct costs of representation. Those fees would be abolished under right-to-work, creating a class of union freeloaders.

For Local 1837 Business Representative Kaitlyn Hegarty, the success of members' personal calls to lawmakers and the confidence they gained in the process was a highlight of the campaign.

"Because this is such a divisive issue, I think a lot of our members anticipated hostile phone calls, and they turned out to be very cordial," said Hegarty, who coordinated her local's efforts.

She also noted that the Legislature's website makes it easy for New Hampshire voters to weigh in on bills and was pleased by how many union members answered the call to do so.

"When they put a bill online, you have the ability to sign in, give your name, and say you're opposing or supporting it," Hegarty said. "It's a really simple action. There ended up being more than 1,400 opposed and less than 50 in favor."

The day of the House vote in late February, union members and retirees gathered early outside the Capitol for a rally with an upbeat vibe.

"The idea is to greet the legislators when they're showing up for the day," Sapienza said. "It really feels good at the end of all the work you've done."

Based on the lawmakers who made eye contact and those who averted their gaze, union activists knew the odds were on their side.

"One hundred percent, you could tell how they were going to vote," Batchelor said. "We got a lot of thumbs up, even from some of the red ties."