Thursday, January 19, 2017

Boeing's Dreamliner workers in South Carolina headed toward union vote for second time in two years

Machinists and other workers at Boeing's 787 Dreamliner facilities in South Carolina appear set to hold a vote on whether to join the International Association of Machinists in the next few weeks..

The IAM said in a news release Thursday it will hold a news conference Friday morning, where IAM leaders will make what they called a "major announcement about the ongoing organizing campaign to secure collective bargaining rights for workers at Boeing’s North Charleston operation."

The IAM said other labor and community groups that are supporting the Boeing workers efforts to form a union also will attend. They are expected to reveal they've filed a petition to hold a union election at the South Carolina Boeing facilities.

The IAM District 751 already represents thousands of Boeing machinists in the Puget Sound region.

The union drive comes at a time when Boeing is making major cuts to the workforce in its commercial airplane division, both in the Puget Sound region and in South Carolina.

The cuts have seen hundreds laid off and hundreds more offered and taking voluntary buyout packages as the company tries to reduce its headcount amid sagging sales of large passenger jets.

If the union vote proceeds, it would be the second union drive the IAM has filed in two years, The Charleston Post & Courier newspaper reported.

A previous attempt in 2015 to organize Boeing workers at its facilities in South Carolina was withdrawn by the union after its officials accused the company of creating a "toxic environment" with misinformation and outside political interference, the newspaper reported.

Boeing employs 7,600 people in North Charleston, but only about half of those might be eligible to join the union.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey were vocal critics of the IAM the last time it filed for a union election.

This time, things will be different because of changes to National Labor Relations Board rules in 2015 have accelerated union elections.

Prior to the changes, it took an average of 5 1/2 weeks between the time a union petition was filed and an election was held. Under new NLRB rules, the vote could be held as soon as 13 days after a union petition is filed, the newspaper said.

Boeing's South Carolina complex includes not only its Dreamliner plant, but a second plant that builds interior parts, such as overhead bins, for the wide-body jets. It also includes a research and technology center that focuses on advanced manufacturing and composite fuselage manufacturing; and an engineering design center which supports Dreamliner production.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

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