Boeing Commercial Airplanes is preparing for a new battle with the International Association of Machinists, the labor union that represents hundreds of Boeing workers in Washington State. The union on January 20 petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a secret-ballot election for approximately 2,850 production workers to organize and affiliate with IAM at the Boeing assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C.
This would be the second attempt to organize the South Carolina complex, which is the site of Boeing’s second final assembly and delivery operations for the 787 Dreamliner. In March 2015 a petition for an election was filed with NLRB by the IAM, but then withdrawn a few days before the scheduled April 22, 2015 vote.
Earlier, in 2010, the union sued Boeing through the NLRB, contending retaliation (versus IAM workers in Washington state) for building the new plant in a “right to work” state. Boeing and the IAM later settled the dispute, and Boeing agreed to build its 737MAX jet series at the Everett plant.
Boeing South Carolina also fabricates, assembles, and installs systems for rear fuselage sections of the 787 Dreamliner, and joins and integrates midbody fuselage sections. Completed aft and midbody sections are delivered to Everett, Wash., for final assembly, or are moved to final assembly line in North Charleston, S.C.
The South Carolina complex also includes a plant manufacturing 787 interior parts (stow bins, closets, partitions, class dividers, floor-mounted stow bins, overhead flight-crew rests, overhead flight attendant crew rests, video-control stations, and attendant modules for 787s assembled in South Carolina.)
The complex also includes the Boeing Research & Technology Center, which focuses on advanced manufacturing technology and composite fuselage manufacturing; and Propulsion South Carolina, where the design and assembly of the 737 MAX engine nacelle inlet is done. The latter also designs the 737 MAX engine nacelle fan cowl and the 777X nacelle.
According to IAM organizers, Boeing South Carolina workers have remained in contact with the union in recent months, regarding “numerous workplace concerns that remain unaddressed, including subjective raises, inconsistent scheduling policies, and a lack of respect on the shop floor.”
“Boeing workers just want to be treated with the respect they deserve,” stated IAM Boeing SC lead organizer Mike Evans. “Why should they be subject to a different set of standards and rules than folks building the exact same plane in Seattle?”
"We have not forgotten the IAM's history in South Carolina,” responded Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager of the North Charleston complex, “including their repeated insults regarding our teammates' abilities, their contract with Vought that took away many of the benefits those teammates already had, their attempt to keep Boeing from building 787s in South Carolina through their claim with the NLRB, and their abandoned petition in April 2015. There's simply no reason to believe that anything has changed between then and now."
Boeing South Carolina has established several outlets (e.g., a website, Facebook page) to keep teammates, their families, and the community updated on the matter.
"One of the great things about Boeing South Carolina is that our teammates already have a voice, and their ideas, concerns and stated have driven many changes for the better, and continue to do so today," said Robinson-Berry. "Because of our unique ability to work together, we're able to develop and implement those changes quickly for maximum benefit. We believe our teammates deserve to keep their hard-earned money in their pockets while continuing to work with the company to drive meaningful change."