S.C. governor, other states say they don't want auto union jobs.
Following the UAW's loss during an election at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., last week, anti-union groups have vowed to use the same game plan against the union in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and elsewhere.
On Thursday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said corporations with union representation — including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — should not even think about locating in her state.
"It's not something we want to see happen," Haley said after an appearance at an automotive conference in downtown Greenville, S.C. "We discourage any companies that have unions from wanting to come to South Carolina because we don't want to taint the water."
The governor urged more than 200 people at the conference, many of them auto industry executives, to keep up their guard against unions. "They're coming into South Carolina. They're trying. We're hearing it. The good news is it's not working."
The UAW, along with Chrysler and GM, declined to comment. Ford, in a statement, said, "We are proud of our strong relationships with our stakeholders, including our UAW partners."
In Chattanooga, Volkswagen's workers voted 712-626 against representation from the UAW. The rejection came after Republican legislators threatened to deny Volkswagen tax incentives if it decided to pick the Chattanooga plant for an expansion to build a new SUV that could create several thousand new jobs for the state.
UAW President Bob King condemned the comments, saying the politicians and other outside groups improperly influenced the election, which was monitored by the National Labor Relations Board. But if the UAW is going to challenge the outcome, it must file an objection with the NLRB by midnight tonight.
Policymakers in Southern states have used their right-to-work status and antiunion positions to successfully recruit companies — especially manufacturers — to their states. Michigan lawmakers last year approved right-to-work legislation, with Gov. Rick Snyder and others saying the designation would help recruit new companies. Under right-to-work, workers cannot be forced to pay union dues.
Gov. Haley's warnings provide more evidence that antiunion groups and politicians in the South, emboldened by their victory against the UAW in Tennessee last week, are looking to replicate their victories against organizing drives in other states.
In Tennessee, antiunion workers groups, outside interest groups, as well as Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker, both Republicans, banded together to paint the UAW as a money-hungry union interested only in swooping down from the North to gain dues-paying members at southern auto plants.
"Sen. Corker and Haslam made it respectable to not simply trash unions, but to say they are not welcome," said Harley Shaiken, a professor of labor studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who keeps in close touch with the UAW. "The problem with (Haley's) statement is — if you followed it to its logical conclusion — she should ask BMW and Boeing to leave the state because they are both highly unionized at their home base of operations."
Union supporters have been stunned that ideology would drive politicians to say they would turn down new jobs if the company bringing the jobs favors union representation.
"When a governor says we don't want new business and new jobs, that is not simply inappropriate, it is inexplicable," Shaiken said. "But I think it reflects what took place in Tennessee."
The UAW's organizing campaign in Chattanooga was widely viewed as its best chance in decades to organize a major German or Asian assembly plant in the South because Volkswagen remained neutral during the election and allowed the union inside the plant to make presentations to employees.
A victory at Volkswagen could have given the UAW tremendous momentum with its organizing campaigns at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., as well as at Nissan's plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.
Now, the Center for Worker Freedom, an arm of anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, is vowing to take on the UAW in those states.
In Chattanooga, the group purchased billboards throughout the city that tied the UAW to President Barack Obama — calling the union the "United Obama Workers" — and blamed the union for the downfall of GM and Chrysler when the companies filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
"The Center for Worker Freedom was designed and is being built to fight these type of fights," said Matt Patterson, executive director of the center. "Our goal is going to be to target communities, and specifically to talk about the history and politics of the union and the cost and consequences of unionization."
South Carolina has the third fewest union members as a percentage of its total workforce in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Patterson said antiunion groups have been alarmed by union growth success in Tennessee and other states in the South.
"Private sector unionization is not a threat that has gone away," Patterson said.
Contributing: The Greenville (S.C.) News and the Tennessean