Boeing workers vote whether to unionize at South Carolina plant

More than 3,000 Boeing production workers in South Carolina were eligible to vote in an election Wednesday, which sought to determine whether the employees wished to organize and be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. South Carolina has the fewest union employees in the United States. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 15 (UPI) — Thousands of Boeing production workers voted Wednesday whether to organize, in what’s seen by many as a landmark event for American workers in the South.

The Chicago-based aerospace company spent billions to open the production facility in North Charleston, which assembles the 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing chose South Carolina for the plant’s location in part because it wanted to assure airlines that ordered the new aircraft that there is little chance of a strike. South Carolina has the fewest organized employees in the United States — with just 1.6 percent belonging to a union.

More than 3,000 Boeing workers were eligible to vote in the election. The polls closed at 4:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, and the results were expected later.

The National Labor Relations Board is orchestrating the vote, which was requested by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which has more than 700,000 current and retired members. The union, which seeks to represent the Boeing workers, held a “vote yes” rally on Monday.

Boeing has been running television and radio advertisements to advise workers against unionizing.

“After weeks of Boeing management scare tactics, intimidation and television and radio propaganda ads, 3,000 workers at the South Carolina 787 assembly plants will have their chance to join the IAM,” the union said in a news release before Wednesday’s vote. “[The] rally was held [Monday] to give supporters a chance to come together and get factual answers to the lies Boeing management has been spreading.”

Boeing, though, has said its South Carolina workers already earn better wages than some of its union employees in the South.

If the union succeeds, it will have to negotiate a contract with the aerospace company to cover the workers. If it fails, it could attempt another vote next year.

President Donald Trump plans to visit the Boeing plant on Friday.


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