Post and Courier reported:
Call it the “Rumble on Sam Rittenberg” or the “War to Save the Unions.”
Standing just steps from one of the busiest highways in Charleston, Republican congressman Tim Scott and federal employee union leader John Gage verbally sparred over anti-union legislation Thursday while a crowd of gawkers from both sides of the aisle looked on, jeering and cheering.
For about 20 minutes, the two played “point and “counter-point” as their impromptu debate went from civil to confrontational, then to a sweat-producing workout. Voices were raised, but no blows were struck. At one point, Scott did refuse to shake Gage’s hand, saying the union leader had misrepresented his position. They later made up.
The square-off began amid a series of American Federation of Government Employees demonstrations targeting GOP leaders they say are pushing an anti-union agenda. As AFGE members were demonstrating outside Scott’s West Ashley congressional office, others were targeting GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
The main topic in Charleston was Scott’s bill to end the automatic, post-tax withdrawal of union dues from paychecks of federal civil servants. The freshman lawmaker — also a tea party favorite — wants to end the practice, backing the effort as part of his general support of right-to-work laws. He also believes the federal government should not be a player in any sort of union business.
Gage, national president of the AFGE, called foul, saying Scott is out to destroy unions by gutting them through thinly veiled legislation designed to weaken membership.
“This is not saving any money,” Gage told Scott. “This isn’t deficit reduction. It’s an ideological attack.” The union has about 3,000 members in the state and 700 in Scott’s 1st Congressional District.
Scott countered it was ludicrous to think that union supporters would automatically lose their enthusiasm if they were made to pay dues on their own.
“Why is it so difficult to write a check?” Scott asked, saying that’s how he tithes at church.