Protesters delay N.H. budget discussions

March 31, 2011 at 2:04 PM
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CONCORD, N.H., March 31 (UPI) -- Demonstrators interrupted budget discussion in the New Hampshire House, leading to a clearing of the public gallery, officials said.

House Speaker William O'Brien put the House in recess and ordered the gallery cleared as protesters shouted, "Don't harass the middle class," the Concord (N.H.) Monitor reported.

Asked what he thought as state troopers escorted people from the gallery, O'Brien said, "I think thugs will not rule New Hampshire, that's what I think."

Hundreds of people gathered outside the State House Thursday to protest a proposed state budget that would constrain collective bargaining and cut funding for nearly all state services, the newspaper said.

The protests followed a House vote yesterday on legislation that labor advocates say could prevent state public employees from bargaining collectively.

The measure would allow public employers to set wages and benefits for their employees without input from unions. The provision would only apply in the event that a prior contract expires before negotiators are able to agree to a new one.

"What they did today was total destruction, in our estimation, of almost 40 years of good labor-management relations," Dave Lang, president of the state firefighters union, said Wednesday.

About 450 firefighters spent time at the State House in protest of the legislation, he said.

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