COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina and Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia have filed a brief in support of the S.C. State Ports Authority’s (SCSPA) petition for a writ of certiorari in S.C. State Ports Authority v. National Labor Relations Board. The Governors’ brief urges the U.S. Supreme Court to grant the petition, correct the lower court’s ruling, and end the International Longshoremen’s Association’s (ILA) ongoing “secondary boycott” of SCSPA’s Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston, South Carolina, which threatens to interfere with port-related investments and operations in both South Carolina and Georgia.
On December 16, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a split decision reversing an Administrative Law Judge’s earlier ruling that the ILA’s “secondary boycott” was unlawful. The ILA’s “secondary boycott” has prevented carriers from calling on the Leatherman Terminal unless and until SCSPA gives all lift-equipment work at the facility to ILA members, including the work traditionally and consistently performed by state employees. For decades, both SCSPA and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) have used a hybrid labor model, with state employees operating all of the state-owned cranes at the States’ ports. After the Fourth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision earlier this year affirming the NLRB’s decision, on September 25, 2023, SCSPA filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse that ruling.
“The Leatherman Terminal is a state-of-the-art facility and a critical part of South Carolina’s economic-development portfolio and continued competitive advantage,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “I will not stand idly by and allow unions and their unlawful boycotts to hold our State’s resources, jobs, and supply chain hostage as out-of-state labor bosses seek to advance their own interests at the expense of state employees. South Carolinians have worked hard to earn our prosperity, and we must continue to preserve it and enhance it, not bargain it away under threats of labor union boycotts and coercive pressure campaigns. Particularly at a time when the Southeast is leading the nation in both population and job growth, I appreciate Governor Kemp joining me in this fight to maintain and advance our States’ shared interests in protecting our ports and enhancing our regional supply chain.”
“The success of the Georgia Ports Authority speaks for itself, with the ports supporting hundreds of thousands of Georgia jobs and billions of dollars in revenues statewide,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “To continue that momentum, it’s essential the port retains the authority to decide the appropriate operating model that secures long-term performance and benefits the consumer. By taking this action alongside our partners in South Carolina, we aim to support the future prosperity of our ports and the role of GPA in shaping that future.”
“Unless this Court grants SCSPA’s petition and corrects the Fourth Circuit’s mistake, South Carolina will not be able put its $1.5 billion investment to use fully unless it caves to the ILA’s indirect demands, allows the ILA to ‘consum[e] all the jobs at the Leatherman Terminal,’ and abandons the State’s longstanding decisions about how it will operate its ports and how it will guarantee South Carolinians the right to work free from union coercion,” the brief argues.
The brief also notes that, like South Carolina, “Georgia faces the same challenges with its port-expansion plans.” “Absent correction by this Court, the Fourth Circuit’s authorization of indirect union coercion threatens to disrupt similar infrastructure investments and economic-development initiatives in Georgia.” The brief continues, “Permitting unions to threaten and thwart decades of state investment strategies will chill infrastructure maintenance and enhancement, stifle economic development, and disincentivize supply-chain improvements.”
The Governors’ brief is available here.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s docket is available here.