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New Hampshire workers rally against collective bargaining limits

By Ed Payne, CNN
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Budget battles in the 'Bust Belt'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Protesters rallied at the New Hampshire state capitol building Thursday
  • NEW: The bill restricting collective bargaining rights has little chance of clearing the state Senate
  • New Hampshire is the latest to try to limit state workers' collective bargaining rights
  • Wisconsin and Ohio have already passed similar bills
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Read more about this story from CNN affiliate WMUR.

(CNN) -- State workers and others rallied at the New Hampshire capitol in Concord Thursday -- one day after the state House approved a package that would reduce collective bargaining rights.

Wednesday's vote on House Bill 2 came a day earlier than expected, catching state workers and other advocacy groups off guard.

The measure, however, is believed to have little backing in the state Senate and is opposed by Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

"There is no way" the measure will clear the Senate, said Carole Alfano, the Senate communications director. "It has absolutely zero support."

Speaker William O'Brien, a Republican, "purposely moved up votes on the budget, and the union-busting amendment in particular, because he was afraid to face the wrath of thousands of New Hampshire voters (who are protesting) in vast disapproval of the extreme agenda of the House leadership," said Diana Lacey, president of the State Employees Association.

"People above Politics," "NH Can Do Better," and "Lean, Not Mean" were offered as themes for the rally.

"Anytime people's human rights are being taken away, people tend to stand up and say no," Bill McQuillen, Portsmouth firefighter, told CNN affiliate WMUR.

Passage of the bill would limit the ability of labor unions representing state workers to collectively bargain on issues like wages, hours, working conditions and benefits.

While the vote has roiled state workers from teachers to firefighters, House Republicans who back the bill say they have their supporters too.

"If you look at my emails, I've got 8-to-1 ... in support of what we're doing here to protect the taxpayers," said Rep. Al Baldasaro from Londonderry, according to WMUR.

Similar efforts by legislatures to change collective bargaining laws in Wisconsin and Ohio have ignited passionate responses. Wisconsin's governor and Republican lawmakers have said the changes were needed as they grapple to limit spending.

Demonstrators occupied the Wisconsin capitol building for weeks before the legislature passed a law that curbs the collective bargaining rights of most state employees. A Wisconsin judge has put the law on hold.

On Wednesday, the Ohio state legislature passed its own legislation that would limit collective bargaining rights by barring Ohio's public employees from striking. The bill is now bound for Ohio Gov. John Kasich's desk to be signed into law, possibly this week.

Kasich has argued that Ohio Senate Bill 5 is crucial to closing an $8 billion budget shortfall and bringing public-sector benefits in line with those in the private sector.

CNN's Chuck Johnston and Mark Norman contributed to this report.

 
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