South Carolina Boeing Workers Vote on Union
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In Charleston, South Carolina, workers at Boeing plants voted last night not to form a union. There were a little over 3,000 eligible workers, who would have joined the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers if the vote had succeeded. This would have put them in solidarity with the over 30,000 Boeing employees in the Seattle area who have been unionized for years.
Employees of Boeing across the nation were hopeful that the vote in South Carolina would finally succeed, after previous failed attempts in years past. The traditionally non-union state has been used as a bludgeon to reduce the effectiveness of other unions, as Boeing has been able to use work stoppages in the Puget Sound area as a bargaining tool.
Prior to the vote, some had predicted success despite the state’s strong anti-union history because of the failure of Boeing to address the myriad concerns of their workers, especially issues with worker evaluation and compensation. Workers in South Carolina also make about $23 an hour, compared with a $31 per hour rate in Seattle.
South Carolina is a “right to work” state, which means that even if a union was created, it would be easier for the company to procure strikebreakers from the ranks of workers who opted out of the union. This would have significantly weakened one of the most potent bargaining tools of the union.
Workers in South Carolina, to the surprise of many, overwhelming rejected the union, rebuffing a decades-long effort to unionize the state. Earlier last year, a potential vote was derailed when then-Governor Nikki Haley and other state politicians came out against the union. While not outwardly supportive, local politicians were less aggressively opposed to this union vote this year, and with Haley serving as UN Ambassador in the Trump administration, there was hope that the union vote would succeed. For now, however, South Carolina will remain an almost entirely non-union state and the Boeing workers in Charleston will stay under previous management.