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Boeing workers dismiss unionization

Three-quarters of the 2,828 Boeing workers in the South Carolina plant voted not to unionize against the aircraft company giant.

Boeing’s campaign against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers—the group that tried to rally support for unionization at the South Carolina plant—was uncompromising. The IAM already unionized a plant in Washington state that manufactures the 787 Dreamliners.

The National Labor Relations Board conducted a secret poll among the workers throughout the town of North Charleston in order to obtain data on thoughts of unionization.

However, South Carolina maintains a solid reputation as the nation’s strongest anti-union state. Therefore, the results against the IAM did not come as a surprise.

“South Carolina is one of 28 states that bar unions from requiring workers to join up as a condition of employment, and has the lowest proportion of union workers, at 1.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York is highest with 23.6,” Fortune magazine writes.

Although the workers voted with their own interests in mind, President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit the aircraft factory on Feb. 24. Specialists speculate that he will approve of the decision to avoid unionization. Among those specialists is Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Shaiken specializes in labor and the global economy.

Trump will be in town for the launch of the 787-10 Dreamliner, a modification of the jumbo planes previously released by Boeing. The new line will be able to carry 14 percent more passengers and 15 percent more cargo compared to its predecessor. 

NLRB rules state that elections to unionize can only occur 12 months apart, so the IAM has to wait a full calendar year before trying to petition again.

A previous vote to unionize was canceled in April 2015 due to suspicions that state officials had interfered. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley voiced strong opposition to forming a union in that same year. Haley created testimonies that may have jeopardized IAM’s chances.

Workers cited many reasons for going against the notion to unionize. Among them, the most prevalent has to do with fostering divisiveness. Workers claimed that the union would create severe distinctions between management and staff and encourage workers to strike in order to curb dissatisfaction.

Hoyt N. Wheeler, a professor of business at the University of South Carolina, said prior to the vote that a union victory would be a historic change since Boeing, in particular, set up one of its plants in South Carolina to avoid unionization.

However, 26 percent of Boeing workers indicated that they supported the idea of joining the IAM, which demonstrates surprising depth for IAM efforts.

The workers who supported the act and voted in favor of unionization claimed that the company had not remedied issues that it promised to eliminate prior to the scheduled vote. For example, workers complained that management doled out raises and promotions to workers on an unfair and inexplicable basis and evaluated them poorly. Another popular complaint against Boeing had to do with job expectations. Workers complained that job instructions fluctuated on a monthly basis and workers had little consistency and foresight. They had hoped that by unionizing, this problem could be averted in the future.

While the IAM fights for fairness and consistency, the union’s main aims include establishing “higher wages for production and maintenance workers in South Carolina,” the Times said. On average, these workers make $23 per hour while their colleagues in the Washington plant perform the same tasks and make $31 per hour.

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