Published: Sat, June 02, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Boeing South Carolina workers face union membership vote

Boeing South Carolina workers face union membership vote

Mike Evans, lead organizer for the International Association of Machinists (IAM) at Boeing South Carolina in a statement called the outcome "a victory for the American worker".

A small group of workers at Boeing's SC plant will vote on whether to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union on Thursday.

The IAM is looking to unionize about 180 flight-line workers at the North Charleston campus into a "micro unit", potentially separating the group from the rest of the thousands of employees at the facility.

Boeing lost a last-minute request to delay the election, and said it will appeal the union's ability to represent the flight line group because it is in violation of US labor law, postandcourier.com reported. "While we are deeply disappointed with the result and are appealing, we will come together as we continue to deliver on our customer commitments". The law has helped SC lure Boeing, automakers and other manufacturers which have unions at their plants in other states. An attempt to organize the factory past year was rejected by 74 percent of workers, while a 2015 campaign fizzled amid an anti-union barrage led by then-Governor Nikki Haley. Her successor, Henry McMaster, tweeted last week that "out-of-state union bosses" were "about as welcome as a Category 5 hurricane". "And this vote put them closer to achieving those goals. We hope Boeing does the right thing by agreeing to sit down and negotiate in good faith".

The shares were little changed at $352.15 after the close of regular trading in NY.

Boeing is the largest exporter in the United States.

The company accused the union of using gerrymandering to form a "micro-unit" at the facility it built in SC - a "right to work state" - after running into difficulty dealing with the Machinists' union (including a strike) in Washington state 10 years ago.

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Boeing tried to stop the vote through an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), citing a December ruling by the board making it more hard for a small group of employees within a larger company - the legal term is a "micro-unit" - to form a separate bargaining group.

After two failed efforts to organize the entire production workforce of more than 3,000 employees at the North Charleston manufacturing complex, in 2015 and again in 2017, the union finally succeeded in a vote of the small sub-unit representing the 176 mechanics who work on the flight line.

The vote to unionize is a change in SC, where less than 2 percent of the private-sector workforce belonged to a union in 2017 - the smallest number in the US, according to Bloomberg Law's labor data.

While this will be the first union at the SC plant, the machinists' union said it represents about 35,000 Boeing employees in 24 locations nationwide.

Working side-by-side with unionized workers may also dispel some of the anti-labor bias that has made North Charleston such a challenge for labor organizers, Aboulafia said.

"The workers were not intimidated", Holden said.

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