by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Many Republican governors, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, have staked out anti-union positions, but Haley has been Boeing’s strongest weapon in its fight with IAM. She’s slammed the union on Facebook and Twitter using hashtags like #BoeingStrong and #VoteNo. She appeared in a Boeing radio ad encouraging workers to reject the unionization bid. In January she devoted part of her State of the State address to the issue. “We have a reputation internationally for being a state that doesn’t want unions, because we don’t need unions,” she said. “I have every confidence that the Boeing workers in Charleston will see this play for exactly what it is and reject this union power grab.” …
… Haley’s feud with the IAM predates her 2011 inauguration. Her predecessor, Mark Sanford, lured Boeing production to South Carolina with a $170 million loan package and a state law that limits union contracts. “We can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years,” Jim Albaugh, then the chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told the Seattle Times.
As governor-elect, Haley announced she was appointing a veteran anti-union lawyer as head of South Carolina’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation to help her “fight the unions,” including at the soon-to-open Boeing plant. Her comments prompted a lawsuit by the IAM, which argued Haley’s union bashing violated federal law protecting union organizing. A federal judge dismissed the suit. In her first year as governor, the National Labor Relations Board’s chief prosecutor filed a complaint against Boeing alleging the company was shifting jobs to South Carolina to punish unionized employees for striking in Washington. Haley countered that the Obama administration was retaliating against South Carolina for curbing union organizing with its law, known as right-to-work. “This right-to-work thing and jobs and Boeing, it defines her,” says GOP consultant Walter Whetsell, who’s worked on Haley’s campaigns.
For Haley, a public grudge match with the machinists’ union is all upside. South Carolina is staunchly red and has the nation’s second-lowest unionization rate. She won reelection last year by more than 14 percentage points, and, at 43, is widely seen as a prospect for national office. “I wear heels—it’s not a fashion statement,” she told the crowd at the South Carolina Manufacturing Conference and Expo on April 14. “It’s because we’ve kicked the unions out every day of the week since I’ve been here.”