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Machinists Union Petitions NLRB for Election at Boeing in South Carolina

Boeing said a union is not "in the best interest of Boeing South Carolina teammates and their families, their communities, and the state of South Carolina."

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election at Boeing Co.'s South Carolina facilities in North Charleston, the IAM announced Monday.

Boeing builds 787-8s and 787-9s at its North Charleston facilities and is slated to perform final assembly of the 787-10 there as well, according to Air Transport World.

The aerospace company's North Charleston site has been a source of friction between Boeing and the IAM in the past. Nearly four years ago the union accused Boeing of building a 787 assembly line in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, as a retaliatory move.

Monday's petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election was filed in response to a "significant" number of Boeing workers who expressed interest in union representation and signed authorization cards, the union said in a statement. The union, which represents tens of thousands of Boeing workers in Washington state and elsewhere, said Boeing workers at the North Charleston facilities had contacted it to share numerous concerns, including forced overtime, fair wages and a lack of shop-floor respect.

"Boeing workers have a legal right to an election process that is free of intimation and harassment," said IAM lead organizer Mike Evans in the statement. "This is their decision and their decision alone."

The IAM claims Boeing workers' efforts to form a union in North Charleston have met with resistance from both Boeing management and South Carolina.

"We expect [S.C.] Governor Haley and her friends, who have no clue what it's like to be a front-line production employee for Boeing, to keep their personal biases to themselves and remain neutral in the weeks leading up to the union vote," Evans said.

Boeing issued its own statement in response to the IAM filing, saying a union is not "in the best interest of Boeing South Carolina teammates and their families, their communities, and the state of South Carolina."

We think our Boeing South Carolina teammates deserve to pave their own future and keep their hard-earned money in their own pockets."

— Beverly Wyse, Boeing South Carolina vice president and general manager

"We think our Boeing South Carolina teammates deserve to pave their own future and keep their hard-earned money in their own pockets," Beverly Wyse, Boeing South Carolina's vice president and general manager, said in a statement. "In fact, they've been very successful doing just that for the past five years. They've built not only new airplanes, but also a new site, and new opportunities for an incredible future here in South Carolina by working together as a team, without the distractions of a union."

The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing March 26 to review the IAM's petition and determine whether to hold an election, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited a Boeing spokesman. "The company has the option for a consent order with the IAM to hold the vote, but Boeing opposes any agreement that would clear the way for an election," according to the newspaper.

South Carolina Battleground

The history of labor-management relations between Boeing and the machinists union has not always been smooth. Boeing's South Carolina facilities, in fact, became a hot-button issue in early 2011 when the machinists' union filed NLRB complaint against Boeing, accusing the company of unfair labor practices.

The IAM claimed the aerospace company violated federal labor law by transferring a second production line for the 787 Dreamliner from Washington to the non-union facility in South Carolina in retaliation for past strikes at its Washington state site. Boeing steadfastly denied the charge.

In late 2011 the IAM asked to withdraw the charges following the ratification of a four-year collective bargaining agreement between its members and Boeing. That agreement assured assembly of the modernized 737 would remain in Washington state.

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