84 Diverse New Hampshire Faith Leaders Support Effective Unions and Urge the NH House to Reject S.B. 61 (the so-called “right to work” bill) as a Disingenuous, Out-of-State-Promoted Attempt to Divide Workers and Weaken Unions
COMING SOON: Formatted graphic for sharing on social media and list of all signers
Read also this testimony from other New Hampshire faith leaders:
- NH Bulletin, We must not be fooled by a slogan, Rev. Dr. Gail Kinney and Dr. Michael Honey
- New Hampshire Rabbis Stand With Workers and Oppose “Right to Work”
- Testimony from the Catholic Diocese of Manchester
The text of SB61 can be found online here.
This letter and the testimony below was sent to the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing on Thursday, March 25, 2021. This letter has also appeared in local media:
- Manchester Ink Link, NH Council of Churches: We stand with new Hampshire’s working people and oppose ‘right to work’
- Portsmouth Patch, NH Council of Churches: Stand with Workers against right-to-work
- Keene Sentinel, ‘Right to work’ harms everyday NH workers
On Sunday, April 4, people of faith and all American people will soon observe the overlap of three significant holidays. First, that evening will be the end of the Jewish celebration of Passover, commemorating how God set free the Hebrew people whom Pharaoh enslaved. Second, western Christians celebrate Easter, proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Finally, it is the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis while fighting for union rights.
As we prepare for these holidays and observances, it is time for people of faith to stand with all working people and oppose S.B. 61, this year’s version of the so-called “right to work” bill in New Hampshire which, despite its deceptive name, it not about providing access to work for anyone.
Some people may find the concerns of working people separate from their spiritual and religious concerns. But, if our hearts be with God, we must also have a heart for our neighbors. The story of Passover opens with God hearing slaves “cry on account of their taskmasters” (Exodus 3:7) and bringing them in union to the prosperity of the Promised Land.
On Easter, Jesus shows Christians that he is the perfect “image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4) in his resurrection. Because of this, Christians should see clearly that image of God in every person (Genesis 1:27) and regard every person with infinite worth and dignity. We can never separate our faith commitments from the concerns of the working people who are our neighbors.
In the Granite State, the NH Council of Churches is made up of nine diverse traditions, including Protestant, Unitarian Universalist and Orthodox bodies. Together, there are about 380 individual congregations across our state. All of these traditions express Biblical and historic support for labor unions and the right of workers to organize for better conditions.
The “right to work” bill, S.B. 61, is an attempt to weaken the ability of working people to organize and follow in those footsteps. It would divide workers wherever unions exist so that their collective voice is substantially diminished. All of the Council’s traditions urge that we support labor unions and collective bargaining and to strengthen (not weaken) them when we are able.
As Faith in Public Life wrote in an amici curiae brief in the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME, “labor unions are critical components of a just society.” They added, “religious authors have long recognized that effective bargaining requires an effective means for unions to collect the funds that they need to operate.”
One such religious leader was Rev. Martin Luther King, who said as far back as 1961, “we must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as ‘right-to-work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. … Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages have been lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”
On April 4, Granite Staters of faith observe the triple observances of Passover, Easter and Rev. King’s death should remind us that if our hearts be with God, we must also have a heart for our neighbors. And if our heart be with our neighbors, that must include our working neighbors who are counting on us to once again stand with them and oppose S.B. 61.
- Rev. Jason Wells, Executive Director, NH Council of Churches
- Bishop James Hazelwood, New England Synod – ELCA Lutheran
- Bishop A. Robert Hirschfeld, The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire
- Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, New England Conference, United Methodist Church
- Rev. Gordon Rankin, Conference Minister, New Hampshire Conference, United Church of Christ
This testimony was sent to the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.
Dear members of the Senate Commerce Committee,
I wanted to reach out to you asking you to vote SB61 as inexpedient to legislate.
The reason that I urge you to reject this bill is on the unanimous support of the member denominations of the NH Council of Churches. The Council is made up of 9 diverse denominations and has about 380 individual congregations in the Granite State. You may be aware that all of these denominations express Biblical and historic support for labor unions and the right of workers to organize for better conditions. Some of these churches root their appeal in God calling together Hebrew slaves in Egypt so that God could bring them to a Promised Land where they would enjoy the fruit of their labor and the abundance of Creation.
The Right To Work bill, SB61, is an attempt to weaken the ability of working people to organize and follow in those footsteps. All of our denominations urge that we support labor unions and collective bargaining and to strengthen (not weaken) them when we are able.
The attached file was submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States as an amici curiae brief in the Janus v. AFSCME case. This brief includes a large number of faith witnesses in support of strong rights for workers along with their theological and Biblical supports. In the document are represented the official statements of Council member denominations such as: American Baptist, Episcopal, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist. (Also included are Catholic and Jewish perspectives, even though they are not members of the NH Council of Churches).
In addition, you can consider these Christian voices in opposition to weakening labor protections in SB61:
- Greek Orthodox, FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All
- Presbyterian Church (USA), Labor Relations Theological Affirmations from Biblical Perspectives
- United Methodist Church, Resolution on the Rights of Workers
While the US Supreme Court ruled against AFSCME and this abundant, diverse faith witness, I urge you vote ITL and stand with New Hampshire’s faith communities.
I hope that this can give you a sketch that Christians of all kinds (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) as well as Jews have found support for labor unions and worker rights through their reading of the Holy Scriptures.
I hope that you can honor this ancient tradition by standing up against weakening these rights and protections and vote inexpedient to legislate on SB61 on Tuesday.
I am happy to discuss this issue more deeply as the session goes on. You can email me at this address or call or text my cell phone at (603) 361-7151 at your convenience.
Rev. Jason Wells