Boeing Workers In SC To Vote On Union Next Month

The election comes after years of battles between the aerospace giant and the union.

Thousands of Boeing employees in South Carolina will finally cast ballots next month to determine whether workers at its North Charleston plant should form a union.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers announced Friday that it reached an agreement with Boeing for the election to be held Feb. 15. The vote will include about 2,850 employees that assemble the 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Mike Evans, the union's lead organizer, said that the announcement marked "a great day for Boeing South Carolina employees and the entire Charleston community."

The election comes after years of battles between the aerospace giant and the union.

Boeing selected North Charleston as the site of a $750 million assembly plant in 2009, which drew the ire of unions that long represented Boeing workers at its facilities in Washington state.

The IAM secured enough support to trigger a union election in early 2015, but union officials called off the vote after they reportedly faced difficulty securing "yes" votes from a majority of workers.

Boeing opposed the organizing effort and ran ads to that effect in early 2015. The campaign also drew criticism from elected officials in South Carolina, which has the nation's lowest rate of union membership.

The union, meanwhile, alleged that workers' organizing rights were violated — including reports of "hostile and near-violent confrontations" — and cited a "toxic environment" surrounding the debate.

The IAM's decision to cancel the April 2015 vote allowed the union to reschedule an election after just six months; a rejected vote would require a 12-month delay.

Evans added last week that workers in South Carolina already faced "a flurry of intimidation tactics from the company and an anti-union law firm," and urged Boeing to "change course" and "allow for an election free of threats and the deliberate spread of misinformation."

Boeing officials said in a statement that the company is "applying the appropriate resources to protect the competitive advantage created by the Boeing South Carolina team."

"[Boeing is] strongly encouraging all eligible teammates, roughly 3,000, to be sure to vote," company spokesman Doug Alder told Reuters.

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