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The hidden issue in South Carolina primary: labor union clout

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For his part, Romney has repeatedly targeted last April’s decision by the National Labor Relations Board to file a complaint against Boeing Co. for locating a new production line for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina rather than at its home base in Washington State, which is not a right-to-work state. The move by Boeing’s management was seen as retaliation against frequently strikes by a strong machinists union in Washington State.

A day after President Obama bypassed the Senate to make three recess appointments to the NLRB, Romney launched an ad campaign in South Carolina blasting the president for stacking the NLRB with “union stooges.”

“You can’t build a factory in South Carolina because South Carolina is a right-to-work state,” the ad said.

The issue has also come up in Republican debates. Rick Santorum, a former US senator from Pennsylvania’s steel belt, had to defend his own votes opposing right-to-work legislation at Thursday’s debate in Charleston, S.C.

He said he had already "signed a pledge and said I would sign a national right-to-work bill,” but added that his state had “made a decision not to be right to work.”

Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas shot back, to applause: “But as president, are you going to represent South Carolina or Pennsylvania? That’s really the question.”

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