Boeing Scores Convincing Win Over Union, Offering Comfort to Manufacturing CEOs

GettyImages-542291608-compressorSouth Carolina has lived up to its reputation as America’s most anti-union state, providing reassurance for manufacturing CEOs awaiting regulations that could push them to employ more workers at home.

A convincing 74% of approximately 3,000 staff at the aircraft maker’s factory in North Charleston voted against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAM.

“We will continue to move forward as one team,” Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said.

The result of the secret ballot isn’t entirely surprising: at 1.6%, South Carolina has the lowest union representation in the country.

“The company’s anti-union conduct reached new lows.

Still, a steady nationwide fall in unionism has largely been caused by a decline in the manufacturing sector, which still harbors more organized labor than many other industries. Boeing’s factory in its home town of Seattle, for instance, remains heavily unionized and the Deep South’s status as a bastion of anti-unionism is being tested as more companies shift operations to states like South Carolina.

IAM organizers in North Charleston had expected a closer result based on the number of workers who had requested the vote, according to a report in the Seattle Times.

Unions such as the IAM may be hoping to tap a rise in protectionist sentiment aired by the many disenfranchised blue-collar voters that helped put Donald Trump in the White House. To be sure, a desire to prevent jobs being sent offshore appears to be the only area in which unions and Trump see eye-to-eye.

The president happens to be scheduled to visit the North Charleston plant on Friday for the roll-out of Boeing’s first 787-10 Dreamliner, the largest of the more fuel-efficient Dreamliner family.

“It is great to have this vote behind us as we come together to celebrate that event,” Robinson-Berry said.

The ballot result followed an extensive media campaign by Boeing, including television commercials, that discouraged workers from joining the IAM. “Boeing’s management spent a lot of money,” IAM lead organizer Mike Evans said. “The company’s anti-union conduct reached new lows.”

Under current rules, the union must wait another 12 months before petitioning for another vote.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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