• Melissa Rosales

EIV: South Carolina Boeing workers vote not to unionize

Link to story: http://www.eivnews.com/archives/4648

About 3,000 union-eligible Boeing workers rejected the vote to unionize Boeing’s South Carolina facilities, according to the New York Times.

The vote turnout last Wednesday showed that of the more than 2,800 employees, 74 percent rejected the union. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had previously called off a vote two years ago due to pressure from local politicians and misreports from management.

Larry Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute in D.C. said one of the reasons for the union election is the large wage discount. According to CNN, South Carolina workers earn $10 an hour less than workers from unionized Boeing’s Washington state plant. Although they build the same planes as workers from the Washington branch, South Carolina workers earn, on average, 36% less money. However, customers pay the same price regardless of the product’s building location.

“The difference is there is more profit on the upper-end,” Elliott Slater, a mechanic at the plant and a union supporter, said. “More money needs to be dispensed toward the lower-end, because we’re the ones that actually build the plane.”

The company allegedly failed to address employee frustrations before the previously scheduled vote according to employee interviews. There issues include: management’s unjust approach to promotions, raises, and evaluation of workers, senior management’s abuse to the one to five scale that determines who receives the largest raise, and workers’ complaint of monthly changes in instructions.

These frustrations suggested that the union had a chance of succeeding the vote as they could bring more consistency and fairness to workers. However, Boeing insinuated to employees that a union would separate them from management, who the union strongly argued against. Boeing South Carolina also stressed that the cost of union dues is about $800 a year and that workers are at risk of being caught in a strike.

Last year, the union membership rate in the United States dropped by 20 percent (about 9,000 workers) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. North Carolina had the lowest rates of union membership with less than 2 percent.

“We are disheartened they will have to continue to work under a system that suppresses wages, fosters inconsistency and awards only a chosen few,” the machinists’ organizer, Mike Evans, said of workers at the plant in a statement of defeat.

The hope for another vote will have to wait at least a year as the machinists can only petition for a vote annually.