In her State of the State speech last week, Gov. Nikki Haley said South Carolina does not need unions. Tuesday, she signed an executive order and spoke out for a bill to toughen up on organized labor in the state:
“I have signed an executive order this morning that says striking workers cannot receive unemployment benefits. In the past, LLR was not allowed or did not have to contact Department of Employment Workforce to let them know of a strike or a potential strike. ”
Senator Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg), who stands up for unions in the Legislature, questioned why this is needed.
“I’m unaware of any union workers in this state who are on strike, who qualify for unemployment benefits, because you had to be ready, willing, and able to take a job. When you’re on strike you aren’t unemployed, you just aren’t working because of a labor dispute. On the DEW website, right now, it says worker’s involved or not working because of labor disputes quality. I really not sure of what she’s adding,” responded Hutto.
He stated that union employees worked peacefully with Haley’s party, as union labor staged and produced the Jan. 16 SCGOP presidential primary debate in Myrtle Beach. ”They did get time and a half for working the MLK holiday,” he added.
Tuesday, the governor and SC House GOP members also announced a new bill to revise the existing Right to Work law in South Carolina.
“I don’t want any company or any business that is here or coming to think that we are not going to have their backs should something happen. This is letting everybody know South Carolina is open for business, and when you get here we will take care of you. And if someone comes after you, we will fight for you, and this is another way of us showing it,” Haley said at a Statehouse press conference.
Haley said the legislation will fend off impending pro-union activity. She cites the most recent threat being the National Labor Relations Board suit against Boeing’s move out of a union state to South Carolina. Boeing and its employee union reached a settlement in that case, and the NLRB backed off.
State Chamber of Commerce President Otis Rawl said the proposed revision to the labor law sends a stronger message to companies considering coming to South Carolina.
“It’s a lot of restatement and broadening the law from the business perspective, in hopes that what we can do is say unions aren’t welcome in our facilities in all—if you take out the part about unions gearing to be a part of contracts. I think what this is going to do is somewhere down the way we’re going to be battling the federal government just like we are with NLRB on some issues, ” Rawl said.
Rep. Bill Sandifer (R-Oconee) wants to add to the current law by stating:
-An employee cannot be fired for choosing to join or not to join a union.
-All South Carolina workers who are union members have the right to resign membership and stop paying dues at any time.
-South Carolina employers must display a poster containing five specific provisions of state law at the heart of South Carolina’s Right to Work Act.
-State and local governments cannot require or prohibit contractual union worker quotas when awarding government contracts, incentives, or tax credits.
Sandifer said his new bill is fair to both employers and labor interests. Labor leader and SC AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt questioned the motivation behind the tougher stance, saying South Carolina’s union membership is amongst the lowest in the nation and there are no unionized public workers who can bargain for wages.
“Haley is bashing unions in a desperate attempt to distract attention from her support of Mitt Romney and play to her eroding Tea Party base,” Dewitt said.
“Unions are looking for outlets, want to close the outlet being South Carolina,” Haley told the media. “Two, we know that they thrive in the dark. We want to keep this as open and competitive as we can.”
“Again, the NLRB suit against Boeing led to all of this. It was a warning shot in the air.”