CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - South Carolina unions filed suit on Thursday against new Republican Governor Nikki Haley and her administration, saying hostility toward unions and workers joining unions is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the South Carolina AFL-CIO alleges that Haley is violating the federal constitutional and statutory rights to free speech, free association and due process.
South Carolina is one of 22 “Right to Work” states and Haley said she will ensure that South Carolina workers are not compelled to join a union.
“We believe there’s no basis to this suit, and if the machinists are offended that the governor doesn’t think unions are a good thing in South Carolina, they’re just going to have to get used to it,” said Gov. Haley’s spokesman Rob Gregory.
At issue is whether a new Boeing assembly plant for the company’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft will be unionized. After a long battle, Boeing in 2009 selected South Carolina as the site of a 787 final assembly plant. The company aims to ramp up 787 production to 10 planes per month in 2013.
The plant in South Carolina is expected to create thousands of new jobs, and machinists in South Carolina voted against representation by the union.
The lawsuit asks the court to compel the South Carolina state government to remain neutral in enforcing state employment laws.
“The right to organize is protected by federal law and she (Haley) does not have the right to select which laws she would enforce and which ones to ignore,” IAM spokesman Frank Larkin said.
Reporting and Writing by Harriet McLeod, Editing by Greg McCune