Bishop Douglas Theuner, Rev. Bill Exner, and Rev. Gail Kinney outside the State House in Concord.Photo: AFSC / arnie alpert
December 7, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As you undoubtedly know via the media and as the intrepid faith vigilers at the NH State House know first-hand, a week ago the NH House of Representatives sustained the Governor's veto of legislation orchestrated by out of state interests to substantially weaken New Hampshire unions and workers' ability to bargain collectively. It is hard to describe how moving and invigorating it was to hear our faith voices rising in the State House hallway with "We Shall Overcome" as House members were voting.
The so-called "right to work" legislation was not about rights and not about providing a job for anyone but rather was a bill designed to eviscerate unions and workers' collective voices. Such legislation, which has always bubbled up from the Virginia-based "National Right to Work Committee" and not from the New Hampshire grass roots, has been rejected by bipartisan majorities in the NH Legislature for three decades. But with this year's effort having been part of a nationwide anti-worker campaign largely bankrolled by the billionaire Koch brothers through their "Americans for Prosperity" group and related entities, it took a gubernatorial veto to keep this unwanted legislation out of New Hampshire. Unfortunately, the Speaker has made clear that we will be fighting this same battle (and worse) all over again in 2012 -- with unions and workers and the services they render in the Speaker's crosshairs.
For the moment, though, I want to profusely thank every individual within our growing faith-labor community who joined a prayer vigil at the NH State House or otherwise stood in solidarity with New Hampshire workers during the past six months or more. Jan Schaffer of Warner, a long time union member and worker advocate who now works with the AFL-CIO, sent me this message last week which she asked me to share with all who joined a faith vigil at the State House over these many months.
For me, and I know for my union sisters and brothers, it was a true feeling of solidarity to see you week after week, month after month, standing with us. The victory [regarding so-called "right to work"] is one that we all share. Your presence helped to maintain a civil tone and reminded all of us that this fight is part of a larger struggle for social and economic justice. I know that when the days became stressful and many of us became a bit harried and frantic it was really wonderful to have you all there beside us. And I must say, this shared victory is sweet. Thank you.
Over and over, we have heard from workers, from Legislators, from State department heads, and others: “Your faithful presence at the State House and your prayers have given me strength.” I hope we will all find new spiritual energy in this season of renewal so we can face the policy challenges of 2012 with strength and resolve and so we can continue to strengthen others with our faithful witness and action at the State House and beyond.
In peace and justice and gratitude,–
Pastor, South Danbury United Church of Christ