(MintPress) – Union busting “Right to Work” legislation was proposed in the New Hampshire state legislature this week, potentially setting up another battle for the rights of unionized workers. This continues a trend of elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, largely supporting laws that limit the right of workers to collectively bargain and achieve fair pay and benefits.
New Hampshire House Bill (H.B.) 322 is supported by major industries and corporate executives claiming that the legislation will help spur the state’s economy and set New Hampshire apart from other states in the Northeast. Previous legislation has been supported by wealthy individuals, including the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity political action committee.
The Koch brothers and other wealthy conservatives were behind the highly unpopular right to work legislation in Wisconsin, Michigan and dozens of other states. By providing “model legislation,” conservative groups like the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC) give elected officials drafts of right to work laws that can be easily implemented.
Indeed, those states with right to work legislation and other measures limiting the power of unions have successfully attracted new businesses, big and small. The biggest such case occurred in 2011 when Boeing, a major aircraft manufacturer moved the bulk of their operations from Washington, a state relatively friendly to unions to South Carolina, a state with low levels of unionization.
The reality is that right to work laws have a far-reaching negative impact on the lives of workers and their families. Like pro-union advocates in other states, critics in New Hampshire voiced opposition to the proposed law claiming that such a measure will drive down wages and destroy middle-class families in New Hampshire.
Indeed, this point is underscored in a 2012 study by the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute.
The report shows that union workers on average receive wages 13.6 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts. Additionally, union workers are 28.2 percent more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance and 53.9 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.
These are important achievements for blue collar American workers and their families, many of whom are still struggling to recover from the 2008 economic crisis and a rapidly increasing cost of living. However, these important achievements have been eroded considerably with the proliferation of right to work legislation across the United States.
Michigan became the 24th and most recent state to enact such legislation in December 2012, a significant blow to organized labor in a state where 700,000 workers belong to unions. Although union leaders vow to fight to overturn the law, the impact has already been felt across the state, hit particularly hard by outsourcing and a struggling economy.
The Koch brothers and wealthy Republicans were the main backers of the Michigan legislation. Although it is unclear who is behind the current proposal in the New Hampshire state legislature, a similar struggle pitting the wealthy few against unions and the middle class could ensue in The Granite State.
This has translated to major declines nationwide. Union membership is now at a 100-year low, according to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With just 11.3 percent of the workforce represented by unions, the report illustrates the strength of anti-labor legislation, including “right to work” laws limiting collective bargaining power in 24 states.