It’s no secret that so-called “right-to-work” legislation is 100% wrong for working families. Workers in states with right-to-work laws have lower wages, fewer benefits, higher poverty rates and more workplace fatalities. So when a new right-to-work bill came up in the New Hampshire state legislature this year, IBEW Local 1245 quickly volunteered to send a team of organizers across the country to help defeat the union-busting legislation.
The team from 1245 – comprised of staff organizer Jammi Juarez, seasoned Organizing Stewards Kristen Rasmussen and Steve Marcotte, and prospective Organizing Steward Xzavier Knox – arrived in New Hampshire just a few hours before dawn on Valentine’s Day, and quickly went to work. The vote on right-to-work was expected to take place just two days later, so the team knew there was no time to waste. They joined up with organizers from the New Hampshire AFL-CIO and began knocking on doors, with the goal of urging New Hampshire residents to call their state representatives and urge a “NO” vote on right-to-work.
“Knocking on doors can be exhilarating and heartbreaking,” said Xzavier Knox, who had never worked on a campaign of this nature before. “It was an eye-opener. It was a great experience. It’s good to know that people come together for a good cause.”
The New Hampshire organizers had planned to phone bank that evening, but they weren’t familiar with the new phone-banking system and ran into some challenges when it came time to set it up. Fortunately, Local 1245 Organizing Steward Kristen Rasmussen had worked with that exact software before, and was able to quickly and easily get the phones up and running.
The following day, the team went out to canvass in a remote, rural area north on Manchester, and they certainly had their work cut out for them. The snow was heavy, the houses were spread apart, and the people at the doors were not always receptive to what the organizers had to say. But despite the many challenges, the Local 1245 team surpassed their canvasing goals. They returned to the AFL-CIO office that evening to make even more calls, and patched through 15 constituents to their representatives.
“Tonight, the serenity prayer comes to mind,” Rasmussen said that evening, after a long day of canvassing and phone-banking. “Acceptance that not everyone agrees with us. Courage to continue the fight and wisdom to be able to walk away. Today…we did all of this.”
On the day that the State Legislature was set to vote on the right-to-work bill, the Local 1245 team, along with dozens of other labor activists, flooded the state capitol with signs in hand, for a final tour de force before the vote. Their goal was to demonstrate that right-to-work was clearly wrong for New Hampshire, and the legislators should do the right thing by voting “NO.”
It was clear that their presence and their voices were heard. When Senate Bill 11, the right-to-work legislation, came up for a vote, it was soundly defeated, with 200 lawmakers voting no, and 177 voting yes. Shortly thereafter, House Bill 520 – which would indefinitely postpone right-to-work – passed narrowly, 193-184. And when the proponents of right-to-work made a motion to reconsider that indefinite postponement, it failed, 194-no to 185-yes.
“We did it! We did it! We stopped right-to-work cold in its tracks of the New Hampshire snow,” said Organizing Steward Steve Marcotte. “It was awesome!”
“Defeating right-to-work in New Hampshire is monumental. I am so thankful to have been a part of this!” said Local 1245 Staff Organizer Jammi Juarez. “The 1245 team worked hard and were able to make a difference to help achieve this victory! We were told by the NH AFL-CIO that we helped deliver six votes from Republican Reps who were initially on the fence. The multiple calls generated from constituents to these target Republicans did the trick! The Reps told the staff that their no vote on SB 11 was a direct result of hearing from their base. Receiving five calls a day/night from constituents regarding a vote is unheard of for these unpaid elected officials.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director
Jammi Juarez contributed to this report