'Union' Now 'the U-Word' in the South

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- It is not a good time for unions. In some regions, such as ours, "union" has become "the U-word."

This may come as a surprise, but here in the South, we actually have unions, and some locals have thousands of members. Some have been here for a century.

These are little-known facts, perhaps overshadowed by the rhetoric of our leaders.
Boeing Co. machinists picket Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008, at a gate to Boeing's giant production plant in Everett, Wash.

These leaders seem to hate labor. They proclaim, at every turn, that unions do harm. Sometimes, it seems that a region that once turned its wrath on minorities (but no longer does) has simply rechanneled the hatred.

For instance, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had this to say in a recent Wall Street Journal column: "As is often the case, a win for people and businesses is a loss for the labor unions, which rely on coercion, bullying and undue political influence to stay afloat."

Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), on Coffee and Markets, a conservative podcast, said that President Obama stocked the National Labor Relations Board "with union thugs."

And in a recent column in The Washington Post, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, from Virginia, said that President Obama is "fueled by efforts to incite class warfare."

By the way, it has long been said that North Carolina is a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit -- which perhaps helps to explain the language of our neighbors to the north and south.

Certainly, their views reflect the intense competition between states for manufacturing jobs, combined with the Republican Party's longstanding conflict with organized labor.

So maybe the rhetoric is just excessive, like the coverage of Hurricane Irene. Maybe it is one more sign that we live in an over-the-top society, one where we must demonize and exaggerate to get attention. Or maybe, nothing at all has changed in South Carolina, which 150 years ago declared war on the United States and in parts of Virginia, site of the second Confederate capital.

The Federal Law Questioned by S.C.

In South Carolina, it seems that every once in a while the politicians elect to drive the train off the tracks by asserting that federal law has no relevance to them.

On this Labor Day, the federal law in question is the National Labor Relations Act. It took effect in 1935 and protects the right to strike. As a corollary, it prevents companies from moving work in retaliation for labor actions. Surely, our leaders would agree that unions have the right to strike, not because strikes are good, but because the alternative would be to deny this basic right.

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