Lawmakers in New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled legislature are set to vote Thursday on a bill to make the state the 29th in the country where paying dues was optional for employees in union-represented jobs.
Unlike in Missouri and Kentucky where similar “right to work” measures sailed through Republican legislatures this year, the bill is no sure bet in the fractious 400-seat state House of Representatives, according to supporters and opponents.
The measure passed the state senate by one vote last month. Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, has said he will sign it if it passes, which would make New Hampshire the first state in the northeast to pass such a law.
Labor unions say the laws undercut them by allowing people to avoid paying dues while still gaining the benefits and pay negotiated by the union. Supporters say they give workers a choice of whether to pay when they take jobs in union shops.
“It is critical that we provide for ourselves every available tool to both strengthen our workforce and attract new, thriving business opportunities. ‘Right to work’ legislation helps to realize those goals,” said Sununu, whose father, John Sununu, served as New Hampshire governor and later in the George H.W. Bush White House.
The state chapter of the AFL-CIO labor union has called on members to rally outside the capitol in Concord on Thursday morning ahead of the vote.
“This legislation is an attack on working families by out-of-state special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections,” said Glenn Brackett, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.
Both sides were still lobbying lawmakers on Wednesday.
“This is going to be a razor-thin vote,” said David Juvet, senior vice president at the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, which views the measure as necessary to lure businesses into the state. “More than a majority of the states are ‘right-to-work’ states, so this isn’t some untried, untested phenomenon.”
Union membership in New Hampshire is slightly lower than the national average, with organized labor representing 9.4 percent of working people in the state compared with 10.7 percent nationwide, according to federal government data.
“Nationwide this is a hallmark Republican issue, but here it New Hampshire it’s not so much of a litmus test,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. “It could go either way.”
(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio)