The Wall Street Journal reports bad news out of the Granite State. According to a piece in today’s paper, the Republican leadership in the New Hampshire House of Representatives doesn’t have the votes lined up to override the governor’s veto of a right to work bill that would have seen NH join 22 other states that “allow private-sector workers to opt not to join a union or pay dues at unionized workplaces.”
This is bad news because right to work laws help counter federal initiatives empowering unions at the expense of individual freedom of association (of both workers and capitalists). Here is what Hayek said along these lines (though, as the linked article notes, there is some reasonable debate among free-market folks about right to work laws):
If legislation, jurisdiction, and the tolerance of executive agencies had not created privileges for the unions, the need for special legislation concerning them would probably not have arisen in common-law countries. But, once special privileges have become part of the law of the land, they can be removed only by special legislation. Though there ought to be no need for special ‘right-to-work laws,’ it is difficult to deny that the situation created in the United States by legislation and by the decisions of the Supreme Court may make special legislation the only practicable way of restoring the principles of freedom.
Right to work laws are also helpful for economic growth, though it isn’t clear that NH will benefit as much as other states from such a change given the nature of the market there. However, NH Speaker Bill O’Brien has been selling it as part of an overall package of policies that would help the state become the Hong Kong of the Northeast US and maybe even the US: “Passing right to work on top of not having an income tax could make us the Hong Kong of the region.”
New Hampshire as Hong Kong would be good for NH but also good for the rest of the country as the competition forced other states (especially other New England states) to mimic NH or risk losing businesses and taxpayers to the Granite State. So here’s hoping that Speaker O’Brien is able to muster the votes in the fall for a repeal. However, we should not be surprised if concentrated interests (and self-interested politicians) make such a change difficult until NH elects a Republican as governor. Republican Rep Lee Quandt – who voted against the repeal – essentially placed himself in one of those categories when he noted that there are many Republican voters among the 63,000 union members in the state: “You don’t pick up money and support by sticking it to thousands and thousands of Republicans,” Mr. Quandt said. “There’s a pretty strong group of Republicans that are not budging.”