Governor Promises Tough Session for South Carolina Unions

  • February 06, 2012
  • By John Gramlich
South Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the nation, and Republican Governor Nikki Haley wants to make sure it stays that way. The absence of organized labor "is an economic development tool unlike any other," she told lawmakers in her state of the state speech January 18.

Even as Republican governors in the heavily unionized states of Ohio and Wisconsin avoid the kind of labor-inflaming measures they pursued last year, Haley is making clear that she is moving to stamp out all union influence in her state. This legislative session, "We'll make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the state of South Carolina," Haley told lawmakers in her speech.

Haley is supporting legislation in the state House of Representatives that would require employers to make clear to workers, through posters or other displays, that they are not required to join a union. The bill also would allow workers who have joined a union to quit immediately and stop paying their dues, rather than adhere to waiting periods that currently can be as long as a year. Additional provisions would increase civil penalties against those who violate the state's right-to-work law and force unions to disclose staff salaries, assets, liabilities and other financial information to the state. They are already required to submit that information to the federal Department of Labor.

"Unions thrive in the dark," the governor said in her speech. "Secrecy is their greatest ally, sunlight their most potent adversary. We can and we will do more to protect South Carolina businesses by shining that light on every action the unions take."

Haley's focus on unions is so sharp this year that she has signed an executive order to prevent striking workers from receiving unemployment benefits — even though, as The State newspaper reports, those benefits are already banned under state law.

Unions in South Carolina, along with Democrats who are in the minority in the legislature, say much of the governor's anti-labor agenda this year is unnecessary. "We already have some of the toughest anti-union laws in the nation," state Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter tells The State. "Can you say overkill?"

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