Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican-controlled Legislature are working with increasing fervor to ensure that South Carolina — long an anti-union state — is a place where businesses can set up and grow without fear of organized labor.
But with only 4.6 percent of the state’s work force members of unions, state employees barred from organizing and no efforts under way to change the state’s right-to-work status, are unions a real threat to businesses?
Some Democrats and union leaders say the focus this year on anti-union legislation is a political ploy to distract South Carolinians from the real problems plaguing the state.
But Republicans and some business officials say the focus is a preventive measure that will help pave the way for the state’s economic recovery.
To that end, S.C. politicians are working to shut out unions. Consider:
State lawmakers are considering a bill to exempt S.C. businesses from a proposed federal rule that would require them to notify workers of their rights to unionize.
Haley has been sued in federal court by a machinists union for saying the state would try to keep unions out of the Boeing plant in North Charleston. Plane maker Boeing chose the North Charleston site last year over one in Washington state because of South Carolina’s nonunion workers and state incentives given by legislators. The plant is the largest single industrial investment in state history.
S.C. voters overwhelmingly approved a change in the state Constitution last November, guaranteeing workers the right to secret ballots in union elections. The National Labor Relations Board has threatened to sue South Carolina, claiming the change is against federal law.
Anti-union forces in South Carolina say they are nervous that President Barack Obama and his appointees could create new federal rules that provide new ins for unions.
“That’s how they’re going to try and get in,” said Lewis Gossett, a labor lawyer who runs the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance.
Meanwhile, Democrats point to dwindling union enrollment across the nation and a growing anti-union sentiment, and they see no reason to fear.
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