South Carolina governor battles union play for Boeing plant

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is firing back at efforts to unionize 7,500 workers at Boeing Corp.’s airline plant in Charleston.

“The International Association of Machinists has never, never believed in us,” Haley said in her State of the State address Wednesday. “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 interest 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.”

Boeing is helping Haley amplify the anti-union message. Chaney Adams, spokeswoman for the Republican governor, said the aerospace giant paid for a new radio ad in which Haley urges Boeing’s South Carolina workers not to join the union.

The IAM wants to crack the Palmetto State’s right-to-work law and hold Boeing to a union contract like the one in force at the company’s home base in Washington state. The labor union is using billboards and other media to wage its campaign.

“It’s a tactical move to try to protect jobs in Washington state,” said Patrick Semmens, spokesman for the National Right to Work Committee in Springfield, Virginia. “If (the union) gets in, jobs in Washington will be more important because union dues are required there.”

Right-to-work states such as South Carolina prohibit forced dues, and Semmens calls that “an important check.” But collective bargaining is legal, and gives extensive power to unions.

“The terms of a one-size-fits-all contract could hurt workers,” Semmens said. “For example, seniority may be helpful to some workers, and not others.”

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