Workers at Boeing South Carolina overwhelmingly decided Wednesday they will not unionize, voting by a three-to-one margin to not have Machinists union representation in the future.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) had petitioned last month for workers at the North Charleston plant to decide whether the union should represent them in collective bargaining. It was the union’s second attempt to organize the workers, following an unsuccessful 2015 effort that ended early when the IAM withdrew its petition.
Of the more than 2,800 employees who cast ballots Wednesday, roughly 74 percent sided with the company, according to a Boeing release. Wednesday’s vote was overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency which regulates union and employer actions.
“We will continue to move forward as one team,” said Boeing SC vice president and general manager Joan Robinson-Berry. “We have a bright future ahead of us and are eager to focus on the accomplishments of this great team and to developing new opportunities.
The vote avoided awkward timing for Boeing, which had strongly campaigned against its workers joining the union. The aerospace giant will roll out its first South Carolina-made 787-10 Dreamliner variant on Friday. President Donald Trump plans to be on-hand for the ceremony debuting the slightly larger version of the 787.
IAM lead organizer Mike Evans said workers “endured” a heavy anti-union marketing message from Boeing management and its allies through television ads, radio spots and billboards. ““We’re disappointed the workers at Boeing South Carolina will not yet have the opportunity to see all the benefits that come with union representation” he said in a statement. “But more than anything, we are disheartened they will have to continue to work under a system that suppresses wages, fosters inconsistency and awards only a chosen few.”
Prior to the vote, Boeing’s Vice President and General Manager Joan Robinson-Berry said a union is “not in the best interests for Boeing South Carolina teammates, their family, this community and the state of South Carolina.” The company had chosen Charleston, in part, because of the lower cost to operate in a region traditionally hostile to unions.
Boeing South Carolina was once unionized shortly after the company purchased a fuselage assembly plant once owned by Vought Aircraft. However, employees there voted in 2009 to decertify the IAM as their representative. The move at the time was seen as key to Boeing making a final decision to build some of its new 787 Dreamliner planes in North Charleston.