Thousands protest New Hampshire bill to curb unions

BOSTON (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters rallied outside the New Hampshire Capitol in Concord on Thursday to oppose budget bills they say curb collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Aside from spending cuts that were criticized by the governor, a companion bill to the House budget which passed on Wednesday included an amendment viewed by many state workers as an attack on unions.

The amendment would make public workers at-will employees whose salaries and benefits are at the discretion of the employer if a contract expires without resolution. The move was proposed as a way to trim state employee wage costs by $50 million.

New Hampshire is the latest state where legislators are trying to put limits on public sector union collective bargaining, on the heels of similar battles in Wisconsin and Ohio.

The budget, which passed the Republican-controlled House on Thursday afternoon, will move to the state Senate next week.

New Hampshire’s Senate also has a Republican majority, but the state Senate President has said the bill as currently written would not be supported. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, also opposes the collective bargaining measure.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Ros Krasny and Greg McCune)

Thousands protest New Hampshire bill to curb unions