The National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Boeing Co. in the dispute over the rights of South Carolina workers to affiliate with the International Assn. of Machinists. In a three-to-one vote, the federal regulatory board said a proposed bargaining unit comprising workers of two job descriptions at the North Charleston Final Assembly operation does not meet federal standards, because the workers are not distinct from the site’s larger workforce of about 2,700 maintenance and production workers.
The South Carolina plant is one of two locations where Boeing assembles its 787 Dreamliner wide-body aircraft. Workers there twice (2015, 2017) rejected by majority votes efforts by the IAM to represent them. The union represents thousands of other Boeing workers in other states.
In March 2018, the IAM filed a petition seeking to organize specifically (and exclusively) the flight-line technicians at the North Charleston location. The union claimed about 180 Boeing flight-line employees approached the union with concerns about arbitrary management decisions concerning overtime, bonuses, and work rules, an IAM spokesman explained at that time.
Now, the NLRB ruling overturns an earlier ruling by the board’s regional director. The three NLRB members voting to overturn the earlier decision are appointees of President Trump. The dissenting vote was cast by a President Obama appointee.
“We are pleased that the board agreed that the IAM’s attempt to isolate our flight-line teammates from the rest of the site is prohibited by federal law,” stated Brad Zaback, vice president of Boeing’s 787 program.
DeLane Adams, speaking for the IAM, called the board’s decision “unprincipled” and said the union’s organizing campaign at Boeing’s North Charleston plant will continue.
“This decision is irresponsible and reckless. American workers are under attack from those who value corporations over working families. We stand with the flight line and all workers at Boeing South Carolina and justice will prevail when their voices are recognized,” Adams wrote in a statement.