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Latest News - August 2011

August 8, 2011
Court rules with Haley in anti-union speech case
Source: Seattle pi

A federal judge sided Monday with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in a dispute with organized labor, ruling that federal labor laws don't prohibit "the expression of political animosity toward unions."

U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck ruled on a complaint about anti-union statements made by Haley and Catherine Templeton, the head of the state labor department.

The suit, brought earlier this year by the machinists union and the state AFL-CIO, alleged such anti-union statements could make workers think twice about forming a union in South Carolina, a strong right-to-work state.

The plaintiffs wanted the court to rule that such talk violates the plaintiffs' constitutional rights and asked the judge to tell the governor and the labor department to remain neutral in enforcing labor laws.

Haley, in nominating Templeton last December, vowed "we are going to fight the unions and I need a partner to help me do it."

"There is no secret I don't like unions," Haley said about a week after she was inaugurated. "I will do everything I can to defend the fact that we are a right-to-work state."

In April, she told reporters "we are not going to allow unions to come into this state" and has made it clear she doesn't want unions in Boeing's new $750 million 787 assembly plant in North Charleston.

The plant that opened last month is the largest single industrial investment in South Carolina history.

Templeton, in a January statement, said: "Let me be very clear ... this is an anti-union administration."

Houck, in his 34-page ruling, said the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which he can grant relief. He noted the plaintiffs contended Haley and Templeton were interfering with the union rights to organize through such statements.

"However, beyond labels and conclusions, the complaint does not allege the plaintiffs have done anything but talk," the judge wrote.

He added that the National Labor Relations Act "does not pre-empt strict enforcement of a right to work law or the expression of political animosity toward unions."

The judge also said "the plaintiffs should rest assured that if the defendants actually infringe on their rights though imminent threats or retaliatory action, the federal courts stand ready to grant relief."

"What the governor has said from day one is that she's going speak out when she sees unions bullying great corporate citizens or coming between our businesses and workers, and today's ruling reaffirms her freedom to do just that," said Rob Godfrey, Haley's press secretary.

Messages seeking comment from a machinists' union spokesman and an attorney for the union were not immediately returned.



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