Should New Hampshire change the laws affecting collective bargaining?
By: LFDA Editor
New Hampshire’s collective bargaining laws have gone through numerous changes in recent years. The process of collective bargaining involves negotiations between an employee group (often represented by a union) and an employer, with the end result being a change in the employee benefits or work conditions.
NH’s state legislature took a number of steps in the 2011 session to change the laws governing collective bargaining by union members in the state; while most of the media attention focused on changes to public employee unions, there were also moves that would affect workers in private companies as well.
The first change was the Senate's passage in March 2011 of SB 1, which eliminated the automatic insertion of so-called “evergreen clauses” into new public union contracts in the state.
Passed in 2008 when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate in NH, the original measure required that the terms of expired public employee contracts continue, including scheduled wage increases, until a new contract is signed. The measure was strongly opposed by many municipalities, which felt that the clauses removed the incentive for labor unions to make concessions, forcing taxpayers to continue paying for services for longer than they need, or were able to afford. (The measure does not affect existing contracts, nor does it prevent clauses from being negotiated into future contracts if both sides agree; it simply removes their automatic extension.)
A further change to public employee contracts—and the prime concern of many of those who protested House budget deliberations in Concord in March 2011—was a budget amendment to the House budget bill which some unions feel effectively disbands public unions when contacts expire.
The amendment turns all public workers into “at will” employees once contracts expire, which allows municipalities to set wages, benefits, and (some believe) allow the termination of workers without cause.
Status: Attempts by Democrats in the House and a few Republican dissenters to remove the amendment failed; predictions that the amendment had little support in the Senate seemed to be borne out by a Senate Finance Committee decision, released on April 13, 2011, which recommended removing the amendment from the budget bill on the basis that it dealt with policy rather than spending.
Another measure, HB 474, would affect all workers at unionized workplaces in the state. A so-called ’Right To Work’ law, HB 474 would eliminate the requirement for employees at unionized workplaces to join and pay dues to their respective union.
Specifically, it would prevent collective bargaining agreements from requiring employees to join the union, and releases unions from representing employees who decide not to join the union. Supporters of “right to work” laws say they can lead to lower unemployment rates in states that have enacted them, but some economists believe that there is no definite link between right to work laws and lower unemployment. Unions strongly opposed HB 474, and Governor Lynch pledged to veto it.
Status: The NH Senate voted in favor of "right-to-work" legislation by a veto-proof majority; the bill, HB 474, was passed by the House, although not by a veto-proof majority. On May 11, 2011, Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill, and House Speaker William O'Brien said the House wouldn't entertain an override of the veto until the fall. In November 2011, the override failed.
Initiatives working through the 2012 legislature included HB 1666 and HB 1677.
HB 1677, which proposed to prohibit collective bargaining agreements that required employees to join a union and to allow that no labor organization be required to represent employees who do not join the union, was passed by the House but tabled by the Senate in April 2012.
In June 2012, Gov. John Lynch vetoed HB 1666, which would require legislative approval of any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state. The Legislature didn't have the votes to override the veto. SB 37
entered the senate in January 2013, with the language being added to propose giving public employers "the right to determine standards for evaluation, compensation, selection, layoff and retention, discipline, assignment and transfer, and other traditionally accepted managerial rights..." The bill has not yet been voted on.