Judge considers union suit against SC governor
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV, AP) -- Attorneys have argued in federal court in Charleston over anti-union statements by Gov. Nikki Haley and the head of the state labor department.
A lawsuit filed this year asks the court to tell Haley and Catherine Templeton to remain neutral in union matters.
U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck promised to rule next week on whether to dismiss the lawsuit by unions in the state aimed at Governor Nikki Haley and Director of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Catherine Templeton.
S.C Association of Professional Firefighters Michael Parrotta sat through the hearing Monday and says he's worried about Governor Haley's anti-union comments."There are things people can say that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and when it comes to organizing we don't need our boss, as the governor, who is our boss of the state, telling us public employees, you cannot organize," Parrotta said. "There's a chilling effect. There are many, many people who would join a union today but they are afraid in South Carolina to join a union," S.C. President of AFL-CIO Donna Dewitt said.
It's that fear that union leaders base their lawsuit on. In federal court Monday the machinist union and AFL-CIO's attorney argued that comments made by Governor Haley months ago against unions are illegal. Those are comments she made about Boeing when she appointed her Labor Department Director."I will do everything in my power to defend the fact that we are a right to work state. We are pro business by nature. I want us to continue to be pro business. If they don't like what I said, I'm sorry. Its how I feel," Haley said in December 2010. The union groups say comments like that one are being used to scare South Carolina workers from unionizing.
Haley has said Templeton's union-fighting background would help the state's fight against unions, particularly at the new Boeing plant in North Charleston.
The Governor's attorney's would not comment but told the judge in court Monday that Governor Haley has the right to free speech and that no illegal action against unionization has taken place. The judge is expected to make a decision in the next ten days on whether or not to dismiss the case.
The NLRB complaint itself goes to court in Seattle on Tuesday.
(The Associated Press and WCIV contributed to this report.)