Every South Carolinian should have the right to make a living for his or her family without being forced to join a union or pay dues. We must continue to safeguard this important individual freedom.
In the House, we recently passed the Right to Work Act of 2012 to strengthen our state’s right-to-work laws. This legislation, which I introduced earlier in the session, garnered bipartisan support and now has headed to the Senate.
This bill is critical because it updates our laws to make South Carolina the strongest right-to-work state in the nation. While some might characterize it as anti-union, nothing could be further from the truth. The purposes of the legislation are to ensure freedom of choice and to level the playing field so that all sides — employees, employers and unions — are protected and armed with knowledge about their rights.
The bill has several important provisions that shore up our existing right-to-work laws.
First and foremost, it gives workers the right to protect their hard-earned paychecks. Under South Carolina’s current right-to-work law, if you join a union and sign up for a payroll deduction, the draft is often irrevocable for a year, even if you resign union membership. The bill lets workers stop payroll deductions any time.
Second, it lets employees hang a poster in their workplaces outlining the fundamental principles of South Carolina’s right-to-work laws. The posters would be available electronically or in hard-copy from the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Employers already can hang right-to-work posters, but employees do not have the statutory right to do so. This would give employees and employers equal rights to display a poster if they choose.
The bill also seeks to level the playing field for all S.C. businesses that compete for government contracts. Recently, there has been a push at the federal level and in neighboring states to require project-labor agreements, meaning that union-worker quotas are involved when awarding public contracts. Under the new legislation, state and local governments would not be able to require or prohibit project-labor agreements as part of awarding a contract, incentive or tax credit.
The bill further protects South Carolinians by increasing fines for right-to-work violations, which have not been indexed to inflation, bringing them up to a level that is punitive.
Passing the Right to Work Act this year is a critical next step in protecting freedom of association in South Carolina, one of our basic constitutional rights. Forcing workers to pay union dues to get or keep a job is simply wrong, and we must make it a priority as a state to have the strongest right-to-work laws in the country. As the Obama administration is promoting union activity, now is the time for us to send a strong message that South Carolina is a right-to-work state.
The Senate will be taking up the bill in the coming days and weeks, and I am encouraged that many senators were involved in developing it or have expressed support. Gov. Nikki Haley also has been a vocal advocate. As it moves through the General Assembly, I ask my fellow legislators to make strengthening right to work a top priority this session. In addition, I ask employees and employers to contact your senators to express support for this important bill, which protects freedom of choice in South Carolina.