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S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and Catherine Templeton, her newly-confirmed labor and regulatory director, have been sued by a prominent labor union over remarks that Haley made last month in nominating Templeton to her new post.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) – which is hoping to mobilize workers at a new Boeing assembly plant in North Charleston – claims that Haley has created a  “governmental policy of hostility to unions and workers seeking to join unions.”

“We’re going to fight the unions and I needed a partner to help me do it,” Haley said in nominating Templeton six weeks ago.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C., the  lawsuit specifically alleges that Haley and Templeton are “maintaining a state policy of opposing workers’ advocacy of and association in unions” in South Carolina. The state chapter of the AFL-CIO joined IAM in filing the suit.

“By tasking Ms Templeton to lead the fight against union organizing in South Carolina, and specifically against the IAM at the Boeing facility in North Charleston, Gov. Haley is requesting a state official to violate the very law she is charged with enforcing,” an IAM leader said in a statement. “The state has no business whatsoever taking sides or exerting influence in a worker’s decision to join or not to join a union.”

The lawsuit asks the federal government to declare Haley’s anti-union position unconstitutional – and  to enjoin Haley and Templeton from interfering with the right of South Carolina workers to unionize. It also seeks to recover court costs.

Seriously? Are these guys for real?

This lawsuit is frivolous on so many levels we’re not sure where to begin …

First of all, Haley hadn’t even been sworn in yet when she made the comments that have IAM so fired up. Second of all, Templeton specifically admitted during a recent Senate confirmation hearing that she had no authority whatsoever to block union membership – at Boeing or anywhere else.

But even if Haley had been sworn in when she made these remarks, since when did a union have the right to muzzle anybody’s free speech? To say nothing of a sitting governor?

Also, the last time we checked South Carolina was a “right-to-work” state, meaning that we already (thankfully) have a “governmental policy” of hostility toward unions.

Hopefully the court will recognize all of this and dismiss this ridiculous suit …

Make no mistake, though, this is the opening salvo in what we expect to be a brutal fight over IAM’s efforts to unionize the new Boeing facility in North Charleston. In fact, it seems clear to us that this is a preemptive strike by IAM to try and handcuff Haley from opposing their efforts.

That can’t happen … Haley has every right to use her bully pulpit to highlight the dangers of unionization in general as well as the specific problems that this union could pose to the new Boeing facility.

In September 2008, IAM led a two-month strike of nearly 30,000 employees at Boeing. We can’t have that sort of thing in South Carolina.

Like most unions, the IAM is in decline – and desperate. After approaching 1 million members in the early 1970s, the union claimed approximately 650,000 members four years ago – prior to the onset of the recent recession.

It’s part of a broader trend away from unionization – at least in the private sector.

Once representing 33.7 percent of the private sector workforce, today only 7.8 percent of non-government workers are unionized. By contrast, a whopping 36.5 percent of the public sector is unionized (up from 9.8 percent back in 1940).

Machinists’ Union Complaint (.pdf)