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Right-to-Work Showdown

Should New Hampshire be pro-choice when it comes to unions?

Sep 19, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 01 • By FRED BARNES
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Many Republicans appear indifferent to right-to-work, but they face a new source of pressure, a phalanx of conservative groups who’ve become a powerful element in New Hampshire politics. “Conservative activists have come into their own,” says Kevin Smith of Cornerstone Action. “They really know how to influence their members to take action,” says former talk radio host Jennifer Horn of We the People, a grassroots group she organized.

The split among Republicans, while lopsided, has caused bitter feelings. Representative Mike McCarthy of Nashua calls himself a “committed conservative and Republican.” For the past 20 years, he’s voted a straight Republican ticket. He’s also a member of the electrical workers union. His wife, brother, father, and grandfather are union members or retirees. McCarthy voted against right-to-work and intends to vote against overriding the governor’s veto.

This went over poorly with Pete Silva, the whip. McCarthy used to join Silva on his weekly radio show in Nashua. Silva says if McCarthy doesn’t like right-to-work, he didn’t have to vote for it. “He could have been sick that day” or taken a walk—that is, simply not voted. For months now, Silva hasn’t invited McCarthy to his show.

There’s a flip side to the promising signal New Hampshire will send if right-to-work prevails. Should it fall short, the signal will be discouraging. If an overwhelmingly Republican legislature—with its leaders strongly in favor, conservative activists fired-up and on board, and organized labor in steep decline—can’t enact a law that gives workers the simple right to choose whether to join a union, where can such a law pass? Indiana, maybe, or perhaps Missouri. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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