With several dozen protesters on each side — some hailing from Summerville — the American Federation of Government Employees union members, area Democratic Party members and area Conservative supporters massed early today outside Rep. Tim Scott's (R-SC) office on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard in West Ashley.
AFGE organized the protest to confront Scott over his votes for the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget, his vote to freeze the pay of federal employees for five years and his support for stripping federal employees of the right to have union dues deducted from their pay, according to union President John Gage.
Upon learning of the planned demonstration, area Tea Party supporters and Republican party members organized a counter protest to show support for Scott and to oppose to unions.
Billy Simons of Summerville attended the counter protest.
"I went to show support for Congressman Tim Scott. I believe in his principals of smaller government," Simons said. "We were just wanting to ensure that South Carolina remains a right-to-work state."
Simons was joined by members from Summerville 9/12 group, which aligns itself with a small-government message.
He described the atmosphere as fairly congenial.
"We had constructive dialog on both sides," Simons said.
Rob Groce of Summerville, while on the other side of the union issue, described handshaking and discussions between the two sides.
"There was a lot of pleasant conversation between both," Groce said. "Just because we have some disagreement with this issue doesn't mean we don't have things in common."
To add to the conversation, Scott waded into the protest a little after noon and spent more than half an hour engaging the AFGE protesters in sometimes heated conversation, while protesters on both sides tried to drown out each others' shouts and chants.
During encounters with protesters Scott maintained his position that union membership should be voluntary and that the government shouldn't either discourage or encourage membership, and that allowing federal employees to deduct dues from their pay was a tacit endorsement of unionization.
AFGE's Gage countered that membership is entirely voluntary regardless of the pay check dues deduction, and that allowing employees who want to be members to have their dues deducted from their pay is no different than any other deduction the government allows them to make.