Boeing workers may soon vote on decision to unionize

Election could take place in February

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International Association of Machinists Boeing South Carolina lead organizer Mike Evans - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • International Association of Machinists Boeing South Carolina lead organizer Mike Evans
As the sun rose on a new workday, it was announced that the International Association of Machinists will call for a secret-ballot union election for approximately 2,850 employees at Boeing’s North Charleston plant. Filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, IAM lead organizer Mike Evans said the move to unionize grew from a collective demand for fair treatment and respect for Boeing employees.

“Over the past year and a half, management at Boeing has repeatedly failed to make the improvements they promised workers,” Evans told those gathered at the local International Longshoremen’s Hall on Friday. “Instead, workplace policies remain inconsistent and raises remain subjective. Boeing workers deserve better than that.”

The aerospace union had previously withdrawn a scheduled union election in 2015. Evans claims that the past effort was derailed by the rampant spread of misinformation and interference on the part of an anti-union law firm hired by Boeing. With the union election likely taking place in a matter of weeks, Evans believes that this most recent call for an election will work in favor of the IAM and improve the lives of Boeing employees.

“[Boeing] makes a lot of quick, arbitrary decisions there. All of a sudden you come to work and your start time is 6 a.m. The next day it’s 5 a.m. One day, you’re on an eight-hour schedule. The next week it’s a 10-hour schedule,” said Evans. “Fairness ties right into that. There’s what we believe to be a lot of nepotism and favoritism. There really isn’t anything in place to ensure that everybody has a fair chance for advancement.”

Representatives from Boeing responded to IAM’s announcement Friday morning, expressing disappointment in the news, but not surprise.

“Our team has achieved a lot of very important and impressive accomplishments here in South Carolina — without the IAM,” said Boeing South Carolina Vice President Joan Robinson-Berry, adding that the company has not forgotten IAM’s “repeated insult of our amazing teamwork and our amazing team right here in South Carolina.”

The Boeing general manager denied the accusations regarding the intentional spread of misinformation during the previous unionization effort and said that the size of the company may lead to some minor inconsistencies, but overall company policies are clear. In response to earlier claims from the IAM that local Boeing employees are underpaid compared to their counterparts at other plants, Robinson-Berry said that corporations pay according to the local market and employees receive fair wages under that consideration, as well as an abundance of benefits. She added that Boeing is not concerned by the abbreviated timeline of the upcoming union election, which could prove to be a major coup for organized labor efforts in South Carolina.

“A good outcome would be a win,” said Evans, “but what’s really important about this process is making sure we get them a contract that is equitable and fair to them — give them the chance to vote on a contract that’s going to make Boeing a better place for the worker and make it more of a career instead of just a job.”

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