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Unionization attempt fails at Westinghouse nuclear fuel plant near Columbia

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Unionization attempt fails at Westinghouse nuclear fuel plant near Columbia

Mar 04, 2024 | 2:49 pm ET
By Jessica Holdman
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Unionization attempt fails at Westinghouse nuclear fuel plant near Columbia
Description
Volunteers participate at a union organizing event Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024, outside Westinghouse Electric Company's nuclear fuels plant south of Columbia. Three out of every five participating workers voted not to unionize under the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers. (Provided by the South Carolina Progressive Network)

COLUMBIA — Workers at a Columbia-area nuclear fuel plant opted not to unionize over the weekend, with three out of every five participating workers voting against it.

As part of the ballot process, 625 workers at the country’s largest nuclear fuel factory considered whether to join the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) union.

The results were 246 for and 379 against — just over 60% rejecting the attempt to unionize the Westinghouse Electric Company facility located near Congaree National Park. The vote followed a petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board in January.

“We were up against a lot,” Melissa Reyes, an organizer with IBEW, said Monday.

Reyes said the company hired four consulting firms in an effort to persuade workers against organizing.

A spokesperson for Westinghouse did not immediately respond to email and phone messages for comment from the SC Daily Gazette.

South Carolina is a “right-to-work state,” which means even workers covered by a union contract aren’t required to join and pay dues to the union. The state has the lowest percentage of union membership in the nation, at 2.3% as of 2023, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

IBEW filed the Westinghouse petition two days after Gov. Henry McMaster bashed unions in his State of the State address.

“One thing we do not need is more labor unions in South Carolina,” the governor said, vowing to fight “all the way to the gates of hell.”

A spokesman for the governor called the “no” vote over the weekend “a major victory for South Carolina” and signal to all labor unions trying to gain a foothold in the state.