The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers plans to file a petition this morning with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election at Boeing South Carolina.
Mike Evans, lead S.C. organizer for the IAM, said the union has enough support from Boeing workers to have an election. He declined to share how many workers had signed authorization cards.
If the NLRB gives the election the go-ahead, around 2,850 production employees at Boeing S.C. will be eligible to vote in a secret-ballot union election, likely in mid-February.
Evans thanked Lowcountry union members and leaders for their campaigning help during a news conference this morning at the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 headquarters on Morrison Drive.
“Because of your help, and the help of all the other unions here in Charleston, today we are filing for an election with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the Boeing workers at their North Charleston plant,” Evans said.
This is the second election attempt by the IAM in less than two years. The union canceled its first election a few days before it was scheduled to occur in April 2015. The IAM said that Boeing intimidated workers, keeping them from going to the polls. Boeing said the union lacked the support and votes needed to win.
“I can unequivocally say there will be a vote this time around,” Evans said today. “We’ve met with numerous workers at Boeing in recent months and are confident they will see through any attempts by the company to divert attention away from the numerous workplace issues that need fixed.”
Evans said workers want to bargain for higher wages, to better afford living in the Lowcountry and to be on par with other aerospace workers’ salaries around the country, including their 787 counterparts in Everett, Wash. He said workers also want more consistent work hours and rules.
Boeing leaders have said workers currently have good pay and benefits, as well as open communication with management. Boeing site leader Joan Robinson-Berry said previously that a unionized facility would hinder workers’ abilities to collaborate and problem-solve together when building 787 Dreamliners; she said unionization would be divisive.
The election comes at a busy time for Boeing. The site continues to grow its footprint — building Dreamliners and interiors, operating an IT center and propulsion center, building the first 787-10 Dreamliner and bringing painting capabilities to the North Charleston campus.
Simultaneously, the Boeing Co. is trying to cut production costs by cutting jobs across the country. For Boeing S.C., this means 600 workers received voluntary layoff offers this month, and involuntary layoffs could occur later this year.
The IAM said the increased conversations with workers and the layoff news has built momentum for the campaign.
Boeing S.C. responded on its Facebook page, saying the IAM would “take more than $2 million per year” from Boeing S.C. workers in dues. Evans said union membership would cost about $800 per teammate each year.
“IAM membership has been declining for years, and they’re desperate for new sources of income,” Boeing said in the post. “They want BSC teammates to bail them out. ... Tell the IAM that you’ll keep your money. Don’t bankroll the IAM.”