How Free Are South Carolinians to Work?

August 18, 2015

Citizen Scoops

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tractor wheel

READERS’ STORIES ABOUT THE FREEDOM TO WORK

Last week, the South Carolina Policy Council – the nonprofit organization that runs The Nerve – asked the recipients of its weekly e-bulletin to relay their experiences of being stopped or hindered from entrepreneurial activity by government authorities. Several readers had some pretty remarkable stories.

The question was part of National Employee Freedom Week. In other states, the term “employee freedom” means freedom from coerced membership in a trade union. South Carolina is a right-to-work state, meaning residents cannot be forced to join a union. But employee freedom ought to mean more than the absence of a right-to-work law. With government agencies managing or regulating or “developing” the private economy at every stage, with state-backed “companies” competing against South Carolina companies, with lawmakers passing regulations that just happen to insulate their own businesses from competition, and with popular and innovative companies almost being outlawed from the state, are South Carolina employees really as free as all that?

Of the several email responses to SCPC’s solicitation, this was a poignant one:

I’ll give you a story. Short and sweet too. Or sour! I used to own a small meat processing business. Mostly we processed deer and other game. Our main competitor was a much bigger company about 25 miles east in [name of county redacted by request]. Well, in 1992 I think it was we got a visit from some state regulators who told us we’d have to install a handicap-friendly entrance, two handicap parking places, and a handicap-friendly bathroom. They said I needed to be in compliance with some federal regulations. I told them send the feds if that was true. I dragged my feet on it as long as I could, but the truth was that I was barely scraping by and couldn’t afford a bathroom upgrade and whatnot. If there was somebody who needed a different bathroom set-up I’d have maybe done it, but nobody was asking for any of this stuff. Of course, our competitor processor had no problem installing all the new stuff, but I couldn’t afford it. I put in the parking space and the ramp, but actually I sold the business before I ever did the bathroom.

This email, too, struck us as a worthy example of a worker unable to work.

Not sure if this is the kind of story you’re looking for, but something like that happened to my brother-in-law. He worked land for several mid-sized farms in the Pee Dee area. Basically he could operate any kind of farm machinery they needed. Tractors and I dont know what. One year some kind of state officials came to ensure that everybody was “licensed up” and they  basically told Grant, my brother-in-law, that he didn’t have the right kind of licenses to do the things he was doing. So he had to apply for them, and go through a lot of testing, I don’t know what all. Meanwhile he couldn’t work and he lost a big chunk of his income for that year. He got the licenses but by that time the harvest year was about gone.

If this or something like this has happened to you or a friend or family member, send us an email at news@thenerve.org. We’ll keep it anonymous if you’d prefer.