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South Carolina governor to lambaste unions in State of the State address

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley will use much of her State of the State address Wednesday to promote South Carolina’s anti-union reputation and try to kill efforts to unionize Boeing’s North Charleston plant.

She will also unveil a workforce training program. Haley has pledged to focus her second term on efforts to ensure students entering the workforce and adults looking for a new career are trained for available jobs. What’s unknown is whether her speech will lay out her plan for funding road and bridge work. Since July, she has promised to announce it in January.

Haley, who has lambasted unions throughout her tenure, will say she’s confident the International Association of Machinists union will again fail in its efforts, according to an excerpt of her prepared remarks provided to The Associated Press.

Earlier this week, an anti-union radio ad featuring Haley began airing in the Charleston area. A Boeing spokeswoman said the company asked Haley to participate.

The Republican governor considers the state’s low unionization membership an economic development tool. In her fifth annual address to the Legislature, she will note South Carolina has the third-lowest percentage of union workers in America, at less than 4 percent.

“I cannot express to you the extent to which this is a game-changer when we are trying to bring new businesses to our state,” her speech says. “We have a reputation — internationally — for being a state that doesn’t want unions. … Now, that reputation and, even more importantly, a South Carolina company, are under attack.”

A union spokesperson did not immediately return messages Wednesday for comment.

The machinists union, which represents thousands of Boeing workers in Washington state, has been ramping up efforts to organize the company’s North Charleston operations, where Boeing makes the 787 Dreamliner.

More than 7,500 people currently work at the site that opened in 2011, according to the company. Last April, the aerospace giant announced plans to invest another $1.1 billion and create 2,000 new jobs in South Carolina over eight years.

In her speech, Haley tells Boeing’s South Carolina employees to remember that if it were up to the union, they wouldn’t have jobs.

“The IAM has never believed in us. First, they flatly, publicly stated that South Carolina workers do not have the necessary skills to build airplanes,” she says. “And then they sued us. They tried to shut us down.”

The National Labor Relations Board challenged Boeing in 2011, alleging it built in South Carolina in retaliation for past union strikes in Washington state. The complaint, which Republicans rallied against nationally during the 2012 presidential nomination contest, was dropped after the machinists union approved a contract extension and Boeing promised to build a new version of the 787 in Washington.

In 2012, Haley won a federal appeal over her anti-union remarks, as the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a South Carolina judge’s dismissal of a union lawsuit. The machinists union and the AFL-CIO wanted Haley ordered to remain neutral in union matters, but the courts ruled federal labor laws don’t prohibit “the expression of political animosity toward unions.”

SEANNA ADCOX, Associated Press