Harold J. Daggett
January 27, 2024
ILA PRESIDENT HAROLD DAGGETT’S STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO GOVERNOR HENRY MCMASTER
In his State of the State speech, Governor McMaster pretended that South Carolina is more “prosperous” than other states because its politicians fight against labor unions. In this age of the internet, however, it only takes a few quick searches to show that McMaster is completely wrong. By any measurement—wages, income, or per capita wealth—the pro-union states that McMaster puts down are much more prosperous than South Carolina and other so-called “right-to-work” states. In fact, South Carolina is near the bottom in any ranking of wages or per capita wealth.
Despite McMaster’s claims, the actual facts are that median earnings of union workers are consistently higher than the earnings of non-union workers throughout the United States. This is particularly the case for Black workers. Union members are also far more likely to have health care benefits, and to have a greater share of health care benefits paid for by their employers. They are also more likely to receive sick leave and other types of fringe benefits. However, some employers object to the expense of paying fair wages and benefits for a day’s work. And those people are the same ones that McMaster is used to socializing with—whether it was at his segregated fraternity in college, or at his all-white country club in more recent years.
McMaster went out of his way to single out the International Longshoremen’s Association, which represents the hard-working men and women in the Port of Charleston. But ironically the Port of Charleston is the perfect example of his hypocrisy. If he truly cared about the prosperity of South Carolinians, he would modernize the Port of Charleston so that it would be operated by private enterprise like almost everywhere else in the United States. If South Carolina allowed private investment in the port, it would cost state residents nothing. But instead the Governor and his administration tax the public to operate the port.
The ILA is a target of McMaster’s anger because the ILA and its local unions have a long and proud history of advocating for both labor rights and civil rights in South Carolina and, as a result, they have earned the respect of the Charleston community. South Carolina’s Republican politicians and their corporate cronies have consistently worked to prevent the development of a strong labor presence but, since 1869, organized Charleston longshoremen have overcome South Carolina’s racist and anti-union sentiment to maintain their presence in the community. From its earliest days, the predominantly Black longshoremen’s local union in Charleston, ILA Local 1422, has enjoyed relationships with local political, business, and community leaders. These longshoremen have used the solidarity forged by racial discrimination and anti-unionism to combat the hostility created by many South Carolina politicians.
Over 100 years ago, McMaster’s political ancestors took the lead in the fight to force Black Americans to work for free. Now McMaster has pledged to fight “to the gates of hell” to prevent South Carolina workers from being paid fairly for their work. McMaster will lose that fight, just as his predecessors lost theirs.
Very truly yours,