BOSTON The New Hampshire Senate on Wednesday passed its version of a right-to-work bill by a veto-proof majority, Senate staff said, a move that would make it the first state in the Northeast to pass this type of law.
Passage would make it the 23rd state in the country with similar laws. Most right-to-work states are in the South and Western U.S.
Conservative activists say the law would make New Hampshire a magnet for businesses. Opponents say such legislation is an attack on unions and an attempt to erode worker rights.
New Hampshire is one of several states where public workers are battling new Republican leadership that has taken steps to curb labor unions and collective bargaining rights.
Wisconsin and Ohio have both enacted laws sharply curbing the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions and nearly a dozen states are considering moves in that direction.
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, has said he does not support the measure.
The state Senate, which has a Republican majority, voted 16 to 8 to pass a bill that gives public employees freedom of choice to join a labor union or pay union dues.
The Senate version removed a provision from the House-passed bill that says unions are not required to represent employees who do not join or pay dues.
The House bill passed in February by a vote of 221 to 131.
It is now up to the House to either agree with the Senate version or work to reconcile differences before legislation is sent to the governor's desk.
The Republican House vote in February was not veto-proof, but that could change in a final vote.
Different versions of right-to-work legislation have been circulating in New Hampshire for years, but prospects for a law to be passed skyrocketed when Republicans amassed large majorities in the House and Senate in November 2010 elections.
(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Ros Krasny and Greg McCune)