By Erin McKee
President, Charleston Central Labor Council
In her State of the State address last week, Gov. Nikki Haley stated, “We’ll make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the state of South Carolina.”
Gov. Haley was born in 1972. The Central Labor Union in Charleston was chartered in 1912. The majority of labor unions in this state have been on this Earth longer than our governor. Union members in South Carolina pay taxes (and her salary), and the majority have higher wages, health benefits and retirement, which enable them to take care of their families.
Unions are needed in South Carolina. Union members are the only workers protected from at-will employment. Union members want to work with management to make their companies safe, have a contract that everyone can understand, have a grievance procedure (like due process) and protect workers.
Unions are the anti-theft device for workers. Is our state better off with low-wage jobs and no benefits? What will that do to our tax base over time, what will that do to our children, what will that do to our middle class? When labor was strong so was our middle class. What will happen to small businesses when people don’t make enough money to shop? Do we really want the big business world to take over and have more companies keeping wages so low that the workers need public assistance while they make record profits?
Gov. Haley chose a union facility to have her inauguration. She works in a Statehouse painted by the Painters Union, gets her mail from the United States Postal Service, which has the Postal Workers Union, the National Letter Carriers, the Mail Handlers Union. Most of what she buys more than likely came through the Port of Charleston, where the International Longshoremen’s Association handles cargo. She likely uses AT&T which has the Communications Workers of America union.
UPS workers who deliver packages to her office are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The power she consumes is provided from SCE&G whose workers are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Some of our very large companies like Kapstone, Mead Westvaco, Bowater, International Paper are union as are our firefighters and lots of our construction workers.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers did the solar panel job at Boeing in the heat of the summer. Many in our wonderful symphony in Charleston are members of the American Federation of Musicians.
We’ve got union members at our military bases and VA hospitals. Gov. Haley should be representing everyone in South Carolina including union members.
We feel like we are being taxed without representation, yet you support right to work which makes us represent those who do not pay their share for the costs of the benefits they receive.
I ask the governor, as one mother to another, to please stop attacking union members as unwanted and unneeded as our children watch the news and wonder why you say bad things about their hard-working parents.