On Tuesday afternoon, in a packed Representatives’ Hall, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on SB 11, the so-called right to work bill. The hearing took more than four hours to complete, with more than 120 initially signing up to testify.
Despite impassioned testimony against the bill, at the close of the hearing the committee quickly voted 3-2 to send the bill to the full Senate. Dozens of SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members were in attendance for the hearing and six offered testimony; another half dozen signed up to testify but had to leave before they had the opportunity to speak. Among those to testify was SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla. After the committee vote, he said he was disappointed the committee overlooked compelling testimony in rubber-stamping the bill.
“SB 11 is a tired, recycled bill that has been defeated time after time in New Hampshire with significant bipartisan support,” Gulla said. “Yet, extreme conservative out-of-state special interest groups are pushing it once again. NH legislators, regardless of political party, have struck down this type of legislation repeatedly because they understand that right to work is wrong for New Hampshire families and businesses.”
Other members who testified included SEA Directors Germano Martins and Mary Fields, Chapter 1 member Bob Joseph, Chapter 16 member Diana Richard, and Past President Diana Lacey, who’s also currently the president of Chapter 45. Lacey didn’t get to testify until 4:45 p.m. — nearly four hours into the hearing — but that gave her plenty of time to listen to other testimony, which she rebutted in her testimony.
“I referenced the gentleman from the national right to work group who said they had 2.8 million people who personally contribute to the organization,” Lacey said. “First, that confirmed that they’re out-of-state individuals. I Googled them during the hearing and apparently donations to the organization are tax deductible, which means taxpayers are subsidizing the group. Talk about being forced to pay for representation you don’t want.”
Lacey said the committee’s quick vote suggests that the senators who voted in favor are facing external pressure from outside groups to push this legislation through.
“We know these groups put extraordinary pressure on these legislators and we’ve seen what they’ve done to others who don’t support the right to work agenda,” Lacey said, referring to out-of-state groups’ funding attacks on state House candidates. “We understand what they’re facing, and like others who’ve stood with us, we’ll stand by you.”
Numerous members signed up to testify but weren’t able to wait the two, three or four hours for their chance to testify. These members include George Fryer of Chapter 1, Peter Brunette, president of Chapter 41, Dan Brennan, president of Chapter 17, and John Corrigan of Chapter 3. Corrigan said he’d planned to talk about a couple of individuals, including his grandfather, Edward Corrigan, who lived in western Ireland.
“He was driven away by poverty and oppression, but he settled down in Cleveland and went to work in the steel mills,” Corrigan said. “Edward began organizing his fellow workers — the primary concern was that they were working 12 hour days, seven days a week, with two Sundays off a year.”
According to the family history, Corrigan said, that activity meant he went to the top of the blacklist.
“He never worked in the steel mills again, so obviously he had no right to work,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan also said he wanted to point to the story of the father of Concord’s first baby of 2017. The father, whose story went viral, lost his job after calling out of work to be with his wife for his child’s birth.
“That’s another guy who doesn’t have the right to work,” Corrigan said. “This bill would not have done anything to help that father — who’s a veteran — get a job. If someone says unions are obsolete and past their time, this man’s story is an example of why that’s not true.”
The core idea behind unions is that in organizing, workers have the ability to affect positive change. Corrigan said this is still a strength of unions, and it was obvious on Tuesday.
“There were maybe one or two state residents who were not lobbyists or representing big companies who were there in support of right to work,” Corrigan said. “We have a major advantage because people who are not members of unions are not organized, and we are.”