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Boeing S.C. flight line workers vote to unionize

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A specific number of Boeing S.C. workers voted in favor of representation by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers today. (Photo/Kim McManus)The flight readiness technicians and inspectors at Boeing South Carolina voted in favor of unionization today.

With a vote of 104 to 65 in favor, the group of 176 flight line workers in North Charleston will be unionized, according to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

South Carolina is a right-to-work state, meaning employees in a unionized group are represented whether they choose to pay dues or not. The rest of the roughly 7,000 Boeing S.C. workers will not be unionized.

Boeing has said unionization is not in the best interest of its employees, while the union promises better benefits.

The union filed for the election in March, hoping to unionize the flight line workers that prepare the 787 Dreamliners for customer delivery. The IAM said workers approached the union with serious concerns about management decisions regarding overtime, bonuses and work rules.

"This election was never just about wages," Mike Evans, the union's lead organizer in South Carolina, said in a news release. "The men and women wanted dignity and consistency in the workplace. And this vote put them closer to achieving those goals. We hope Boeing does the right thing by agreeing to sit down and negotiate in good faith with the dedicated Flight Readiness Technicians."

The National Labor Relations Board approved the election earlier this month. Boeing fought to appeal the election and unionization. Boeing said it will now appeal the results of the election.

"Boeing continues to believe that this type of micro-unit is prohibited by federal law," the company said in a statement. "While we are deeply disappointed with the result and are appealing, we will come together as we continue to deliver on our customer commitments."

This is the third and only successful attempt in recent years to unionize some of Boeing’s North Charleston campus.

The first planned election was for production and maintenance workers in 2015, but the union canceled it a few days before it was scheduled to take place. Boeing said the move showed a lack of interest by its workforce; the union said the company had intimidated its workers from voting in favor of representation.

The second election occurred in February 2017, during which production and maintenance Boeing S.C. workers overwhelmingly voted against unionization. Seventy-four percent of eligible voters said they were not in favor of representation, and the union soon closed its office on Dorchester Road in North Charleston.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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