A small percentage of Boeing employees at the company’s North Charleston plant have decided to unionize.
Roughly 60 percent of the plant’s 169 flight readiness technicians voted Thursday to join the International Association of Machinists. While it’s only a small toehold for the union among the plant’s roughly 6,000 total employees, it comes just a year after the plant’s entire production line overwhelmingly opposed IAM representation.
“Today was a victory for the American worker,” lead organizer Mike Evans said. “They exercised their freedom to join in union and speak with one voice. This election was never just about wages. The men and women wanted dignity and consistency in the workplace. And this vote put them closer to achieving those goals.”
Boeing had attempted to stop the vote and complained it should have been open to all production employees. Flight readiness technicians are usually responsible for the inspections and testing work done on newly-assembled aircraft. But a National Labor Relations Board regional director rejected Boeing’s arguments last week and ruled the technicians were already treated separately from other employees.
The company said in a statement it “continues to believe that this type of micro-unit is prohibited by federal law. While we are deeply disappointed with the result and are appealing, we will come together as we continue to deliver on our customer commitments.”
Employees had complained about layoffs, mandatory overtime on weekends and what they considered arbitrary rule changes as the company tried to ramp up increased production of Dreamliner aircraft. The union also argued Boeing South Carolina flight technicians are paid 30 percent less than their counterparts at the company’s manufacturing hub in Washington.
Evans said he hoped Boeing will agree to sit down and negotiate in good faith. The company has indicated it plans to appeal the regional director’s ruling.
The vote was also a blow to South Carolina elected officials, who have been adamantly anti-union in an effort to lure large manufacturers to the state.