Politics & Government

Former SC labor chief meets with Trump in New York


South Carolina’s former labor chief met with Donald Trump in New York Monday as the president-elect works to fill scores of governmental appointments.

Catherine Templeton confirmed the meeting to The Associated Press, saying it was “productive” and she will “help our new president in any way I can.”

“Mr. Trump wanted to hear from a business person who’s been on the inside and achieved government reforms at the local level — where it is felt most,” Templeton said.

A labor lawyer who specialized in fighting unions, Templeton ran South Carolina’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation at the request of Gov. Nikki Haley for just over a year. She was one of the governor’s first Cabinet appointees, the Republican playing up Templeton’s union-fighting background and ability to keep unions out of the new Boeing assembly plant in North Charleston.

“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,” Haley said during Templeton’s 2011 confirmation process.

Those remarks sparked a lawsuit, leading the International Association of Machinists and AFL-CIO to sue Haley and Templeton, seeking that Haley be ordered to remain neutral in union matters. A judge ruled federal labor laws don’t prohibit “the expression of political animosity toward unions,” and Haley was upheld on appeal.

South Carolina is a right-to-work state, meaning unions can’t force membership across an entire worksite as a condition of employment. The Machinists ultimately canceled a vote to certify the union when door-to-door canvassing revealed it wouldn’t get the needed majority.

Haley, now in her second term, has been asked by Trump to serve as ambassador to the United Nations. Neither woman backed the Republican in the election. Haley was a supporter of Marco Rubio, while Templeton campaigned for Jeb Bush.

Templeton served Haley a second time, directing South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, the state’s largest agency, until 2015. During 2012 confirmation hearings for that position, many senators praised her job tightening up the labor agency, noting they frequently received complaints from constituents about it before her arrival but didn’t anymore.

Questioned why roughly a quarter of LLR’s staff was let go during her tenure, Templeton said the agency had been swollen and many of those laid off were contract and “temporary” employees who had been there a long time. She said she never intended to fire people, but they weren’t needed.

Templeton is mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. Her name was also in consideration for an open U.S. Senate seat when Jim DeMint resigned in 2012 to run the Heritage Foundation. Templeton earned a bachelor’s of arts degree from Wofford and a law degree from the University of South Carolina.