CHARLESTON, S.C. — Union officials are meeting with workers at Boeing’s North Charleston plant in South Carolina.
The informal sessions with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) have attracted only a few dozen employees, The Post and Courier newspaper of Charleston reported.
The meetings are especially sensitive after the fight between the union and Boeing spurred by the company’s plan to build an assembly plant in South Carolina.
Union officials said the Charleston plant was built in retaliation for workers striking at the company’s Puget Sound-area plants. The National Labor Relations Board filed a lawsuit over the issue that was later settled.
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More than 50 Boeing workers spoke to the IAM about their concerns at the South Carolina plant, said Tommy Mayfield, union Grand Lodge representative for the Southern territory.
The concerns included overtime, scheduling and opportunities for promotion, said Mayfield, who added that the workers in South Carolina were aware the union employees in Washington were paid more.
Boeing said it was aware of the meetings.
“We’re continuously working on making Boeing South Carolina a place where teammates have a voice and can speak for themselves without having to rely on a third party to speak for them,” the company said.
The IAM has had members in the Charleston area before. Dennis Murray, currently a quality inspector in the aft-body factory at the South Carolina Boeing plant, was working at Vought Aircraft Industries when the union won representation rights in November 2007
. He was behind the drive that got rid of the union less than two years later. He also was on Boeing’s side in the NLRB fight.
He can’t believe the union is trying to get back into Boeing after being told to leave. “Bottom line, it’s all about control. The union does not like the fact that Boeing has a nonunion facility that makes airplanes because now they can’t shut down the whole line,” Murray said.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was stunned to hear a union was trying to organize workers at the South Carolina plant. “It would blow me away if the employees of Boeing here were so foolish as to unionize when that was one of the key reasons that this plant was built,” he said. “I’m surprised there’s even one employee there is willing to sit down and talk.”
Mayfield said the union has the same goal Boeing has, to help the company prosper.
“Never and forever would the Machinists union … want to come in here and negotiate Boeing out of Charleston,” Mayfield said. “That’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
To get a vote on the union, signatures of 30 percent of the proposed bargaining unit would be needed, said Dennis Nolan, a labor law professor at the University of South Carolina. That does not include contractors, managers and white-collar workers who could not be members.
It’s too early to tell whether the plant will ever have union workers, Nolan said.
“What the union wants to do is maintain a presence and develop contacts and a few potential leaders and then if something happens … and there’s a lot of dissatisfaction, the union could be there to capitalize on it,” Nolan said.