Opinion Extra

Peeler: Boeing proves need to stop card-check

I'm excited. The Boeing announcement is one of the best events I've seen happen during my nearly 30 years in the S.C. Senate. It proves how far we can take South Carolina when strong leaders work together to push conservative reforms. The nation's hardest-working taxpayers, efficient government, low taxes and a high quality of life have given us a study advantage in our goal to rebuild South Carolina's economy and create new jobs for our working families across the entire state. But that's not all.

According to news reports, a big reason Boeing agreed to expand its operations in South Carolina is that the company wasn't comfortable with the demands a union at its Washington plant was making.

Boeing's decision to expand its facility near Charleston says a lot about the business climate in South Carolina and serves as a reminder why we must protect our tough right-to-work laws. We are sending a strong message to the world: We want your business, and we're committed to getting it. I want to continue sending that message by defending workers' rights to secret ballots when deciding whether to unionize.

Union bosses and their friends in Congress are trying to pass something called the Employee Free Choice Act. If the bill were to become law, unions could organize a workplace simply by persuading a majority of workers to sign authorizations, a very intimidating process commonly known as "card check."

Under card check, there would be no subsequent secret-ballot election - and no chance for management to present its case as to what unionizing might mean to the workplace and employees' futures.

Organizations such as the National Federation of Independent Business oppose card check because it would affect small businesses as much as big corporations. A small repair shop in Gaffney is just as vulnerable as a Boeing manufacturing plant to union pressures.

Men and women struggling to make payroll, provide insurance for their workers, put gas in their fleet or advertise their goods and services could easily become targets for union organizers.

In this increasingly tough financial climate, the last thing we need is for Congress to pass a bill making life even tougher for small-business owners, especially in a state such as South Carolina, where small businesses employ most of the private-sector workforce.

That's why Greenville's Rep. Eric Bedingfield and I decided to author legislation that would protect a worker's right to a secret ballot when deciding whether to unionize in our state.

The bill calls for a question to be placed on the 2010 general election ballot that, if approved by voters, would guarantee that a worker's right to a secret ballot is protected in the same way as our votes for president, Congress or the Legislature. As majority leader in the state Senate, I have made this bill a top priority for the 2010 session.

The card check proposal in Congress would stack the deck in the unions' favor and hurt small businesses and their employees. It also likely would kill our goals of bringing more industrial giants like Boeing to South Carolina.

Because of the union's hard-line tactics in Washington state, South Carolina will get thousands of high-paying jobs over the next few years. I don't know whether Boeing's new employees here will vote to join a union, but I do know it should be their choice. We can't afford to let Congress pass a law that would let organizers shove a union down their throats.

Let's celebrate and welcome Boeing to South Carolina. And let's protect workers' rights and fight union takeovers in South Carolina, telling the entire world "we want your business."