A longtime labor leader in South Carolina is pushing back against criticism from union members that moving the Palmetto State to the top of Democrats’ 2024 primary calendar would weaken the influence of organized labor in selecting the party’s next presidential nominee.

In a letter to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Charles Brave Jr., the president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO and International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422, vouched for the proposed change to Democrats’ nominating calendar, which would make South Carolina the first-in-the-nation primary state in 2024.

Brave’s letter, which was obtained first by The Hill, comes amid criticism from some labor leaders and activists that South Carolina’s poor union record makes it unfit to host Democrats’ first nominating contest, because it would signal that the party is unwilling to prioritize organized labor in its selection process.

Brave acknowledged South Carolina’s “complicated” relationship with organized labor in his letter, writing that “the headwinds are real, and challenges do exist. As a life long South Carolinian, I am aware of the state’s unflattering history with respect to all types of labor going back centuries.”

But he also argued that the influence of organized labor is on the rise in South Carolina and that hosting the first-in-the-nation primary there would only amplify the voice of union members. 

“Labor and the Democratic base of voters throughout South Carolina looks a lot like our country,” Brave wrote in the letter, which is dated Monday. “If we harness that diversity and channel its strength in the right direction, we have an opportunity not only to elevate the conversation surrounding labor, but other kitchen table issues many families throughout our country are confronting as well.” 

“South Carolina’s collage of colors will serve as a powerful force to kick off the process for the Democratic nomination for president and truly represent who our country wants as its next leader.”

The proposal to alter the traditional nominating calendar, which has for years began with the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, has been pushed by President Biden as a way to give more diverse states a greater say in choosing the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.

But it has also rankled some in the party who argue that doing so could jeopardize Democrats’ standing in key states like New Hampshire. Opponents of the proposal also note that altering the primary calendar would require the cooperation of Republican legislators and officials in several states.

DNC members are slated to meet early next month to vote on the proposed schedule change.