SEA Members Remain Resolved to Fix State’s Bullying Problem
The question isn’t whether the state has a workplace bullying problem, anymore. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged that. The question now is why they won’t do anything about it.
Members have shown how important this issue is to them, and we thank all who have called their legislators and taken other action in support of HB 591. Several legislators revealed they received a large volume of calls from state employees on this issue. More than a dozen members also took the time to go to the State House on Wednesday to greet lawmakers and ask for their vote for override.
Curtis Metzger, an SEA member at Health and Human Services and an Episcopal priest, has experienced bullying in the workplace. On Wednesday, he shared his experience with representatives and said most were polite and interested, but that most lawmakers don’t seem to really grasp the problem.
“I think there’s a lot of lip service to ‘we think there’s a problem,’ but I don’t think there’s a lot of understanding of the scope and depth of the problem,” he said. “We have to help them to understand that and help them to care.”
Metzger said he was undeterred by Wednesday’s setback, and is even more committed to making sure the issue of workplace bullying is addressed. He said legislation isn’t the only route the state can take.
“I think there are a lot of different ways we can get at the problem, and I think we should look at them all,” he said.
SEA President Diana Lacey said she was proud of what members accomplished with HB 591, the idea which first gained steam at Convention in 2012.
“Don’t let anyone take away from you the fact that on your first legislative attempt to end workplace bullying, you were able to get a bill passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate,” Lacey said. “The bill’s sponsor, the amazing Dianne Schuett, never stopped fighting for it. Neither did members like Marie Morgan and Brenda Thomas. To top it off, you got the truth out there and former employees who weren’t in the union came out of the woodwork to have their voices heard.”
It’s notable also, that while 26 states have introduced anti-workplace bullying bills, New Hampshire was the only state in which a bill had made it to the governor’s desk.
The House on Wednesday fell short in its attempt to override Gov. Maggie Hassan’s veto of HB 591, an SEA member-driven bill aimed at stamping out workplace bullying of state employees. The bill, which was first introduced in 2013, eventually received bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature (it even received unanimous support in the House Labor Committee, an uncommon occurrence). On Wednesday, a majority of Democrats voted to overturn the veto while a majority of Republicans voted to sustain the veto.
Many SEA members helped draft this bill, including sponsor Rep. Dianne Schuett, and bravely testified about their experiences. Marie Morgan, who has since retired from the Department of Education did both. Morgan said she was disappointed with the outcome on Wednesday.
“This bill would require state agencies to develop a procedure for state employees to report repeated incidents of abusive behavior and to have those reports investigated in an impartial manner,” she said. “Many state employees suffer from constant, blatant abuse. They have no recourse. The governor has ignored their request for help and today the majority of Republican state representatives also turned their backs on these public servants. I urge state employees to check the voting record of their representatives and thank those who supported us.”
In addition to thanking all of the SEA members who stepped up to help solve this problem, we should also thank the legislators who fought so hard for HB 591. That includes Rep. Andy White, who chairs the House Labor Committee, and argued passionately on Wednesday in favor of override. He said it was obvious that bullying is a problem for state workers.
“It would seem to me there are some who would seek to minimize it, and to me, that’s a bigger problem,” he said.
SEA President Lacey said Gov. Hassan can and should address this issue right away.
“We believe it’s time for the governor to step up, take executive action and address this matter once and for all,” Lacey said.