Public Employee Contracts - Issue Summary

Should NH change the laws governing public employee collective bargaining?

By: LFDA Editor

Some lawmakers think that public employee unions have too much power over the government when it comes time for contract negotiations.  Over the years the legislature has considered several ways to shift the balance of power in collective bargaining for public employees.

Adding legislative oversight

Some lawmakers support a measure that would give the legislature the power to veto any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state.

Supporters argue that legislative oversight would give the public a voice in contract negotiations.

Opponents of legislative oversight argue that it will simply slow down already lengthy and complex contract negotiations.  Gov. Hassan's 2013 public employee contract negotiations took almost a year.

Eliminating the “evergreen clause”

In 2011 the state legislature passed SB1, which eliminated the clause from public contracts. 

An "evergreen clause" in public employee contracts allows provisions of an expired contract to continue while contracts are being negotiated. Those provisions can include wage step increases, cost of living allowances, etc.

Critics of SB1 said the state should not be involved in negotiations between towns and their public employee unions.

Those who favored the bill said it would help eliminate expenses that cities and towns were otherwise forced to accept without approval.

Making public workers “at-will” employees

In 2011 the legislature also looked at a proposal that would make public workers “at-will” employees if their contracts expire without any kind of renewal.

The measure was added as an amendment to the state budget by the House Finance Committee.  The amendment stated that after a contract expires, public workers “shall become at-will employees whose salaries, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment shall be at the discretion of the employer.”

The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare), said the legislation would motivate public employee unions to settle contracts quickly and affordably, or else give their employers the power to set wages and benefits.

Opponents of the measure argued that it gave too much power to employers, and might even create an incentive for employers to reject contract renewals.

The Senate Finance Committee ultimately removed the “at-will” proposal from the budget. Committee Chairman Chuck Morse said that policy committees can decide on union issues, while the budget panel will stick to budget items.

Related Issues

The large unfunded liability in the New Hampshire Retirement System may affect future benefits for public employees.  Click here to see the LFDA issue page on Retirement Benefits.

New Hampshire has also debated becoming a Right-to-Work state, which would affect public employee unions.  Click here to see the LFDA issue page on Right-to-Work.

2014 Legislation

Rep. Charles Weed (D-Keene) sponsored HB 1228, a 2014 bill establishing a commission to study if different public employee collective bargaining procedures should be used for different categories of public employees.  The House killed that bill March 25, 2014.

Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) sponsored SB 398, a 2014 bill that requires the state to negotiate with each bargaining unit separately, rather than with a committee with representatives from multiple bargaining units.  The Senate killed that bill March 6, 2014.

Previous Legislation

In 2013 the House killed SB 153, a bill that would require legislative approval of any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state.  In 2012 then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed a similar bill, HB 1666

In 2011 the legislature passed SB1, which eliminated the “evergreen clause” clause from public contracts.  The bill became law without the signature of then-Gov. John Lynch.

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Take Action

If you are interested in public employee contracts and want to take action here are some choices:

  • If you are new to contacting your government, please visit our page on  How to Take Action.
  • Contact one of the organizations listed in Learn More. These groups represent the pro or con positions of issues.
  • Contact a government official as follows:

1. Contact members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives or the New Hampshire Senate.

2. Contact the Committee chairperson or members of the House Executive Departments and Administration Committee or the Senate Executive and Administrative Departments Committee – these are the committees that oversee this issue.

3. Contact the head of the New Hampshire Public Employee Relations Board.

4. Give your opinion to Governor Maggie Hassan

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Do you think New Hampshire should revise its public employee contracts? Whatever your thoughts are, we urge you to make your voice heard. See the "Learn More/Take Action" section on this page for more information.

Issue Status

Rep. Charles Weed (D-Keene) sponsored HB 1228, a 2014 bill establishing a commission to study if different public employee collective bargaining procedures should be used for different categories of public employees.  The House killed that bill March 25, 2014.

Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth) sponsored SB 398, a 2014 bill that requiring the state to negotiate with each bargaining unit separately, rather than with a committee with representatives from multiple bargaining units.  The Senate killed that bill March 6, 2014.

News

August 3, 2014
Concord Monitor: Capital Beat: Hassan, state employees union clash over veto
May 19, 2014
Union Leader: John Broderick Jr.: State employee pensions are a promise, not a gift
January 30, 2014

SeacoastOnline: NH Senate rejects anti-union bill
November 19, 2013
NHPR: N.H. Union members ratify contract with state
Valley News: N.H. Union ratifies contract
October 31, 2013
Valley News: Granite state employees close to contract
October 30, 2013
Concord Monitor: SEA leaders endorse tentative contract that includes pay raises, health insurance deductibles
Seacoast Online: N.H. workers reach tentative contract deal
October 29, 2013
Seacoast Online: State of New Hampshire, workers cut contract deal
October 26, 2013
NHPR: State Employees Association to vote on contract with state
October 25, 2013
Concord Monitor: State, SEA appear close to tentative deal on a new contract
October 16, 2013
Concord Monitor: N.H. state employees in federally-funded jobs could be furloughed if shutdown continues
September 26, 2013

WMUR: State workers say payroll software causing problems
September 18, 2013
Union Leader: SEA says state not providing info on insurance deductible
September 13, 2013
Concord Monitor: Contract talks between N.H. state government, largest union remain deadlocked despite mediation
NHPR: State employees contract negotiations head to fact finding
Nashua Telegraph: Mediation fails to settle NH state contract
Union Leader: State, State Employee Association fail to reach mediation agreement
September 5, 2013
Seacoast Online: N.H. workers say payroll system costs them pay
July 20, 2013
Seacoast Online: N.H. state workers reach contract impasse
June 30, 2013
Union Leader: Hassan seeking compromise after State Employees' Assoc. snubs 6% raises
June 21, 2013
Concord Monitor: State Employees’ Association bargaining officials vote against two-year contract 
May 26, 2013
Concord Monitor: Bill gives lawmakers say in state union contracts
February 26, 2013

NHPR: Bill seeks to curb 'double dipping' by retired public workers
February 13, 2013
Seacoast Online: NH House rejects collective bargaining limits
January 30, 2012
Foster's Daily Democrat: Series of bills targets NH public workers' unions
January 23, 2013
Seacoast Online: NH labor unions call state proposal a power grab 
January 16, 2013
Union Leader: State unions seek pay raises from Hassan
June 20, 2012
Union Leader: State worker bargaining bill vetoed
February 15, 2012
NHPR: Lawmakers seek final say on collective bargaining deals
August 30, 2011
Union Leader: SEA ratifies contract; saves jobs and $50 million
August 9, 2011
Foster's Daily Democrat: NH state workers' union group recommends contract
July 30, 2011
Foster's Daily Democrat: NH, labor unions agree on new contracts
Union Leader: State, labor unions reach tentative deals
July 08, 2011
Foster's Daily Democrat: Law increasing bargaining units in NH takes effect
May 03, 2011
NHPR: Wide Majority Supports Collective Bargaining Rights
April 28, 2011

NHPR: Labor on the Line
April 14, 2011
Concord Monitor: Senators: End at-will provision
March 23, 2011
Concord Monitor: Amendment: at-will when contracts die

March 4, 2011
Nashua Telegraph: Law's repeal will help move contract along
February 17, 2011
NH.com: Evergreen clause rejected by House
February 9, 2011
Seacoastonline: An 'Evergreen Clause' would extend teacher contracts