May 11. 2011 9:05PM

Lynch vetoes "right to work" bill

Tom Fahey
New Hampshire Union Leader

CONCORD — As promised, Gov. John Lynch vetoed the right-to-work bill that Republicans in the Legislature have passed by overwhelming margins.

Lynch said Wednesday the bill wrongly intrudes on the ability of labor and management to negotiate contracts.

”There is no evidence that this legislation will offer any benefits to New Hampshire's economy or workers,” Lynch wrote in his veto message. He said out-of-state interests, not New Hampshire businesses, are driving the issue.

The bill, HB 474, would bar contracts that require non-members to pay partial dues to unions to defray the cost of reaching and enforcing labor contracts. It allows fines against companies that include the provision in a contract and deducted the payments.

The bill's supporters say the veto hurts workers and businesses. Non-members can be intimidated into joining a union, and paying partial dues creates more pressure, they argue, saying no one should be required to make payments to a group he or she does not support.

House challenge

The House plans to take up a challenge of the veto on May 25. The Senate has no schedule in place at this point. It requires a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate to override. The Senate cleared that bar in passing the bill, but the House has fallen short twice.

Speaker of the House William O'Brien said he is confident an override will succeed. He needs to pick up 15 to 20 votes to prevail.

He said Lynch has “put loyalty to union bosses ahead of creating jobs for New Hampshire residents and improving the state's economy.”

An override would make New Hampshire the 23rd state to adopt the law, and the only one in the Northeast.

Work for less?

Opponents of the bill call the measure a “right to work for less” bill. They point out that New Hampshire's 5.2 percent unemployment rate is below that of right-to-work states, and average incomes here are higher.

Lynch said: “States should not interfere with the rights of businesses and their employees to freely negotiate contracts,” adding that the bill serves “no compelling public interest.”

During his seven-year term, businesses have never said right-to-work is a concern, he said. “And no New Hampshire workers have ever told me they couldn't get a job because New Hampshire doesn't have a so-called right-to-work law,” Lynch said.

Ken Roos, State Employees Association vice president, praised Lynch. He said the bill is “an attack on workers and would be a detriment to the entire middle class in our state.” He said the state should not “play follow the leader to other states that aren't doing as well as us to begin with.”

A tough fight

Right-to-work forces promise a tough fight. Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Action, said: “We're working diligently around the clock to get as many representatives as possible who voted against it the first time to vote to override the veto.”

State GOP Chairman Jack Kimball attacked Lynch, saying the veto shows “(he) is against free market principles, job creation and individual liberty. It also confirms that he is out of touch with the plight of New Hampshire families and business owners.”

Democratic Party State Chairman Raymond Buckley said Lynch “stood up for the middle class.” He noted that the state on Thursday was again named the nation's most livable state.

“Why do Republicans want to turn New Hampshire into Mississippi? New Hampshire is routinely recognized as having one of the most business-friendly business climates in the nation and ranks highest in public safety and our schools outperform most other states,” he said.