Last week, Volvo Car Group announced that it would be investing $500 million to build its first assembly plant in North America in a state known for its aversion to unions—South Carolina.
Given the amount of new business locating to the Palmetto State, it should come as no surprise that the ailing United Auto Workers would be dismayed by Volvo’s decision.
Although the plant’s opening is more than two years away, according to the Post & Courier, when asked by a reporter, “Are you planning to unionize the Volvo plant in South Carolina?” UAW President Dennis Williams’ response was simple:
“Of course,” Williams responded, adding that Gov. Nikki Haley’s anti-union stance — she most recently fought attempts to unionize Boeing Co. workers in North Charleston — won’t be a deterrence.
“We believe that everybody should have the right to belong to a union regardless of the governor,” Williams said. “Regardless of several statements made by the governor, we will be in South Carolina.”
Williams said he finds it “troubling” that Volvo chose South Carolina for its first U.S. manufacturing facility.
“When you look at Volvo in the history of car manufacturing, they are very conscious of human rights and civil liberties,” Williams told Gatu, a reporter for “Dagens Arbete” — or “The Day’s Work” — magazine. “South Carolina is one of those states in the United States that has a long history of violating people’s rights. So I am surprised.”
Ultimately, Williams said, South Carolina workers will “reject officials intervening on somebody’s democratic right to belong to an organization. It is against the principles on which the United States was founded.”
South Carolina has the second-lowest percentage of unionized workers in the country at 2.2 percent, behind North Carolina’s 1.9 percent rate.
Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Cars North America, however, sees unions as a “non-issue,” according to the Post and Courier. “At the end, it’s up to the employees,”
“We are well-known for taking very good care of our employees,” Kerssemakers said. “We have good relationships with unions in Sweden and in Belgium. In the end, we live in a free world and we leave it up to the employees.”
Whether or not the UAW’s organizers receive the same (not-so-warm) welcome as the Machinists’ union organizers recently did when they failed to unionize Boeing in North Charleston will be largely dependent on the people of South Carolina.