Haley: New SC labor chief to fight SC Boeing union

Catherine Templeton (Source: Ogletree Deakins)
Catherine Templeton (Source: Ogletree Deakins)

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley says her new Cabinet pick to run the state's labor agency will lead efforts to fight unions, particularly at Boeing's new North Charleston plant.

Haley said Wednesday the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation will play a big role in keeping unions out of the Boeing Co. plant that assembles the company's new 787 Dreamliner. Haley notes director nominee Catherine Templeton, a lawyer who has specialized in union fights, has fought United Auto Worker organizing attempts.

"She is ready for the challenge," Haley said. "She knows what it takes to take it on and she understands it's going to be a partnership level that we cannot lose. We're going to fight the unions and I needed a partner to help me do it. She's the right person to help me do it."

The International Association of Machinists says it hasn't given up on organizing the North Charleston plant. Workers there voted against union representation in September 2009. "Last I checked, the right to organize was protected under federal law," said Frank Larkin, a spokesman for the Upper Marlboro, Md.-based union.

South Carolina's anti-union reputation was key to last year's decision by Chicago-based Boeing to expand its assembly operation here. In 2009, only two other states had smaller share of unionized workers than South Carolina's 5.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Before Boeing's board decided to expand the North Charleston operation, it used the threat of the plant in bargaining with the machinists union. The union waged an eight-week strike last year that shut down the company's Puget Sound assembly line in Washington.

"In my experience I have found there is not one company that operates more efficiently when you put another layer of bureaucracy in," Templeton said. "We will do everything we can to work with Boeing and make sure that their work force is taken care of, that they run efficiently and that we don't add anything unnecessarily."

Haley said Templeton will also lead streamlining efforts at the agency, including reducing the time it takes to get professional and business-related licenses. "We've got slowness. We've got regulatory issues that are not working well and so we need someone that's going to go in there and clean this up," Haley said.

Templeton is the second Cabinet nominee that the state Senate will consider for confirmation after it returns in January. On Monday, Haley said BMW executive and former newspaper editor Bobby Hitt was her choice for state commerce secretary, overseeing economic development efforts at the Commerce Department.

Republican Haley takes office in January replacing outgoing GOP Gov. Mark Sanford, who leaves office under the state's two term limit.

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