Bernie Event at Union Hall Highlights Employee Standoff With State (Feb 2020)

Photo by Jacob White

Voters attending a Sen. Bernie Sanders rally Saturday at SIU/SEIU Local 1984 union hall in Concord, NH, walked past a large sign reading “Fair Contract Now, Gov Sununu.”

Media and others from outside of the state may not know that it responds to an almost year-long battle between state employees and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu over a new contract for state employees, a local issue on the mind of many voters getting ready to vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary.

The union is asking for a four per cent pay raise while Gov. Sununu, a Republican, has instead offered a contract that goes a little more than half that number, 2.02 per cent.

This comes after a fact-finding report assessed weeks of oral testimony and written submissions from the two sides and came up with proposed solutions on wage increases and benefits. Sununu agreed to all the conditions but one: the 4 per cent increase in wages.
The union is arguing that because of rising costs of living, increasing private-sector wages, and the proximity of many workers to Boston, they needed the pay increase to be at least 4 per cent.

Sununu argues that he has conceded in many aspects of this deal, initially starting with a flat $250 increase in salary followed by a one per cent increase the next year of the deal, and does not understand why the union does not accept.

“It shocks me that union leadership is standing in the way of wage and benefit increases for the state employees,” Gov Sununu was quoted as saying in the Concord Monitor in November 2019.

Ryan Buchanan, the Democratic New Hampshire state representative for District 15, who was at the Sanders rally, argued that Sununu’s actions have harmed him with union membership.

“Governor Sununu has given more tax cuts to businesses, less funding for school and he increased his own pay…. Berlin recently closed their last elementary school and now the high school, junior high and elementary school students must share the same school,” he said.
Both sides have dug in with their demands and do not seem to be budging anytime soon.