Today, State Representative Bill Sandifer introduced a new bill in the S.C. House, South Carolina’s Right to Work Act of 2012. The legislation further protects South Carolina’s workers’ freedom to choose whether or not to join a labor union. So far, the bill has gained that the support of every Republican House member, all 76 of whom have signed on to cosponsor the bill. Specifics of the new legislation were announced earlier today at the Statehouse where Governor Nikki Haley, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, and S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation Director Catherine Templeton were on hand to express their support.

“Every South Carolinian should have the right to work and make a living for his or her family without being forced to join a union or pay dues,” Sandifer said. “Union participation should be a matter of choice for each individual in South Carolina. This bill is about protecting this important individual liberty.”

The bill protects workers rights in several ways. First, it clarifies language in South Carolina’s existing Right to Work Act that ensures an employee cannot be fired from his or her job for choosing to join or not to join a union. Second, it ensures that all South Carolina workers who are union members have the right to resign membership and stop paying dues at any time.

Also under the bill, South Carolina employers are required to display a poster containing five specific provisions of state law at the heart of South Carolina’s Right to Work Act. Further, the bill prohibits state and local governments from requiring or prohibiting contractual union worker quotas when awarding government contracts, incentives, or tax credits, ensuring a level playing field for all businesses.

Along with protecting workers’ rights, the bill requires unions in South Carolina to be transparent in how they operate. All unions, regardless of membership size, would have the same new reporting requirements under South Carolina law. The bill also increases penalties for any unions or employers that violate the Right to Work Act, putting teeth to current South Carolina statutes.

South Carolina currently is one of 22 right-to-work states and national statistics show a strong relationship between right-to-work laws and economic growth. From 2000 to 2010, personal incomes grew by an average of 24.3 percent in the 22 right-to-work states, more than double the rate for the other 28 as a group. Further, in-migration of young adults has been significantly higher in right-to-work states. In 2009, there were 20 percent more 25- to 34-year olds in right-to-work states than in 1999. In forced-union states, the increase was only 3.3 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 1999 to 2009, states without right-to- work protections lost 1.8 million jobs. During the same decade, right-to-work states added 1.5 million jobs.