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Boeing-Loving SC Gov. Haley Toes Line of Illegal Union-Busting in State of the State Speech

Nikki Haley Boeing Union Busting

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Gov. Nikki Haley put her anti-union credentials on display last week during her State of the State address when she spent a substantial amount of her time “lambasting” the efforts of Boeing workers to unionize with the International Association of Machinists (IAM).  It was music to the ears of her corporate donors, who welcome any reassurance that they have a “good ol’ boy” in Haley to assist their quest to flout federal labor law in South Carolina.   But to union members and struggling working families, the brazen attack sounded like something else: illegal.

Haley began by praising the low union density rates in her state, which she said has a “world class business climate”:

Any truly objective review of South Carolina’s business landscape notes the benefit we get from the minimal role unions play in our state. In 2013 we had the third lowest percentage of union workers in America, with just 3.7 percent of South Carolina workers choosing to join a union.

I cannot express to you the extent to which this is a game-changer when we are trying to bring new businesses to our state. We have a reputation – internationally – for being a state that doesn’t want unions because we don’t need unions. And it is a reputation that matters.

Third world class, maybe.

Haley went on to describe the Boeing-IAM feud using language that turned the corporate giant into a Robin Hood-style figure saving South Carolina from their darkest hours while portraying the union that wants to legally represent workers as the Sheriff of Nottingham.  From her speech:

In stark contrast to Boeing, which has invested billions of dollars and the future of what may be their most important project in the people of South Carolina, the IAM has never believed in us.

First, they flatly, publicly stated that South Carolina workers do not have the necessary skills to build airplanes. Our workers have proven them wrong, but no matter what the IAM says today or tomorrow, we should never forget what they really think about our state.

And then they sued us. They tried to shut us down.

So every time you hear a Seattle-union boss carry on about how he has the best interests of the Boeing workers in Charleston at heart, remember this: if it was up to that same union boss, there would be no Boeing workers in Charleston.

The truth is the IAM cares about one thing and one thing only – its own power. And the successes of Boeing in South Carolina, and more so, the successes of the non-union workers who populate its ranks, are a threat to the IAM.

The problem is, it’s unclear whether Haley is even allowed to use this kind of language under the law:

Gov. Nikki Haley’s anti-union comments during her State of the State speech on Wednesday drew criticism from at least one legislator and a heated response from an International Association of Machinists spokesman, who questioned whether the governor’s rhetoric is legal.

“Workers have a right to be free of coercion, discrimination and intimidation” when it comes to choosing whether to join a union, IAM spokesman Frank Larkin told The Post & Courier. Larkin said the governor might have stepped over the line of intimidation by jumping into the middle of a battle over whether the IAM will represent workers at Boeing Co.’s North Charleston plant, which makes 787 Dreamliner commercial planes.

“Workers at Boeing have a legal right to decide whether they want representation,” Larkin said. “That’s a right of every worker in the country. There is no carve-out for South Carolina.”

Haley’s words are a master work of both irony and political satire.  She labels the union “a bully” just a week after participating in a radio ad urging workers not to join the IAM. Forget ‘Southern comfort.’ That’s Southern chutzpah.  And it has yet to be determined who paid for the ad, taxpayers or Boeing. 

Haley has no real message, no new ideas, just tired, us-versus-themonomics. Whose side are you on?

IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger blasted Haley in a statement following the address, saying:

“Nikki Haley seems to forget that the right of workers to organize in South Carolina is the same as it is in any other state.  It’s more obvious than ever that Boeing’s North Charleston workers need a strong union to help them protect their interests.”

Buffenbarger has a point. Nothing screams, “we need a union!,” like a Governor who is openly hellbent on stifling workers rights.

Importantly, Haley ignores the economic reality of the situation, which is that workers in South Carolina are hurting.  The state’s median household income is in the bottom fifth nationally.  Almost 20 percent of the state’s residents live below the poverty line.  The state’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent ranks ninth highest in the nation.  

Haley can blast unions all she wants, but to the workers who would benefit from higher union density and wages in South Carolina she is just another blathering, out of touch politician. Buffenbarger stresses resolve:

“Workers in North Charleston, and across South Carolina and the country, care more about the safety and security of their job than the political games being played by a governor.  The IAM will stand by these men and women every step of the way as they work toward the only assured way to a meaningful voice on the job – a union contract.”


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