Issue #330

Labor organizing under way at Boeing and MUSC, despite antiunion climate in South Carolina

Boeing South Carolina unveiled its first S.C.-built 787 Dreamliner in 2012.

Boeing South Carolina unveiled its first S.C.-built 787 Dreamliner in 2012.

It is famously difficult to start a union in South Carolina. The state has the third-lowest union participation rate in the country, with just 4.7 percent of workers represented by unions. Part of the reason has to do with the Palmetto State’s right-to-work laws, which prevent an employer from making an agreement with a union to only hire unionized workers. As a result, some workers in right-to-work states might reap the benefits of a union’s efforts—including negotiated wages and grievance representation—without paying a nickel in union dues. This phenomenon has been called the “free rider problem.” One 1995 study published in theJournal of Labor Research found that 17 percent of covered workers in right-to-work states are free riders (unions are required by law—the duty of fair representation—to cover everybody in their bargaining units). And yet, despite the regulatory challenges, labor organizing efforts are underway at Boeing, the Medical University of South Carolina, and some local fast-food franchises. Charleston City Paper, 8-20-14.