South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday she wants Republican presidential hopefuls, who will be debating in her state shortly, to address how they would deal with unions and a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board.
The first presidential primary debate is scheduled next week in Greenville. The state Republican Party expects at least four participants: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Haley said candidates should give their opinion on the labor board's lawsuit against Boeing Co., which is building a $750 million aircraft assembly plant in North Charleston, expected to open this summer.
The lawsuit filed last week accuses Boeing of choosing the right-to-work state in 2009 to retaliate against union workers in Washington state who went on strike in 2008. Most 787s are being assembled in Washington state by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The labor board requests a court order forcing the aerospace company to build the line in the Pacific Northwest.
Haley, who faces a lawsuit from the machinists union for saying South Carolina would try to keep unions out of Boeing, has said she will not stand for the federal board bullying South Carolina businesses.
South Carolina has long marketed itself to potential employers as anti-union. Its right-to-work status means workers can join unions but unions can't force membership across entire work sites.
"I would absolutely love to hear what their stance is on the National Labor Relations Board and what they've done to Boeing and what they are going to do as head or our country in dealing with these labor unions on right-to-work states," Haley said after a news conference on an unrelated issue.
And she wants specifics.
"I don't want just an answer of, 'Yes, we think it's a concern.' I want an answer of what are you going to do about it?" she continued. "How are you going to stand up for these companies? How are you going to stand up against the unions?"
South Carolina's primary is traditionally the first in the South. It is less than a year away, but the exact date is still not settled. Republicans may move the state's primary to earlier in 2012 than expected if Florida ignores the Republican National Committee rules that say only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada can hold contests in February of that year.
Meanwhile, Haley declined to weigh in on a Winthrop University poll showing 78 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in South Carolina believe President Barack Obama is a socialist, 25 percent wrongly believe he's a Muslim, and 41 percent think he was born in another country.
The questions were specifically asked for and provided to The State Newspaper in Wednesday editions. The telephone poll was conducted last week. The margin of error for answers specifically from GOP and GOP-leaning registered voters was plus or minus 4 percent.
"I just don't put a lot of weight on polls," Haley said.
She said her administration's focusing on policies, not side issues.