Today workers from around the world will be celebrating International Workers Day. May Day is a traditional day for unions to educate the public about the rights of workers.
My late father was a union member in Western Pennsylvania where he worked for a power company climbing utility poles most of his life. His union job enabled him and my mother to own a house and pay the tuition for me to get an undergraduate degree and my sister a nursing degree. He didn’t wear his union membership on his sleeve but there is no doubt that it played an important part of giving my family a good middle class life.
With this background you can hopefully understand why this head of a small business organization in South Carolina doesn’t join the chorus of anti-union rhetoric. In fact, from my perspective many of our South Carolina political and economic leaders are schizophrenics when it comes to unions.
We are continuously told from the Governor on down that unions are bad for economic development and must be beaten down at all cost. The public disparaging remarks about unions and their members as well as the chest-thumping about South Carolina having so few union members has become boiler plate information in official speeches and big business recruiting material.
But as soon as these same public officials and economic developers start selling our state for big business recruiting purposes, one of the first South Carolina assets they brag about is the Port of Charleston, where its totally unionized labor force handles most of the commerce moving in and out of our state. The Port is absolutely a critical piece of South Carolina’s economy and you won’t hear any complaints about its productivity. It’s the shining star in our ability to compete globally.
The unionized Charleston Port has been recognized as having the highest productivity record anywhere in North America and ranks amongst the top five ports in the world according to Kenneth Riley, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1422 in Charleston. But you won’t hear union detractors giving the ILA and its 1500 members any of the credit.
So our state bashes unions yet brags about our efficient Port, which cannot operate without its union workers.
We often hear that people suffering from schizophrenia can have their bad behavior controlled through medication. South Carolina needs a big supply of those meds. And we can bring them in through the unionized Port of Charleston.