Senate backs union card check-off

Although it affects only public employees, passage of Senate Bill 216 on Thursday may be a harbinger of things to come for private employees.

On a 14-10 vote, the Senate passed the bill, which would allow a bargaining unit to form a union without an election if half of the employees fill out a union card. Supporters argued that since half already indicated that they support a union, why go through the delay and time to form one?

Sen. David Gottesman, D-Nashua, argued that it would also prevent employers from “intimidating” employees from joining a union.

When Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, questioned whether the lack of a secret ballot would enable unions to intimidate workers to join, Gottesman answered that there was no testimony to that effect during hearings on the bill.

These are the kinds of questions raised by union card check-off campaigns nationwide, which are trying to institute such a reform in federal legislation.

In other bills, the Senate passed two mandates on group health insurance coverage with little opposition.

The first, SB 155, would require health plans to cover chiropractic services. It passed on a voice vote. The other, SB 93, would cover children’s early intervention therapy services. It passed on a roll call vote, with only Sen. Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, a strong opponent of mandates, voting against it.

The latter bill was held up in a week in the Senate Finance Committee because fiscal note said that it would cost the state insurance plan money. That note proved to be erroneous, because the state plan already covers early intervention and, as a self-funded plan, it would have be exempt from such mandates anyway.

On Tuesday, the House sent to the finance committee, on a 222-135 vote, HB 790, which mandates that family health plans cover young adult dependents (who are unmarried and with no dependents) until they are 25. Backers argued that entry-level workers need health insurance as well as previously covered students.

Opponents argue that this would be a very costly mandate that would drive the cost of premiums out of reach of other families with young children, as well as cause some employers to stop contributing to such coverage.

The Senate on Thursday tabled a bill that would regulate commercial schools. Supporters said that it would prevent some trade schools from bypassing normal regulatory channels, but Senators apparently had second thoughts after Senator Bragdon offered an amendment that would exempt workshops that last less than a week, cost less than $1,000 to attend and don’t require payment up-front. – BOB SANDERS

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