Boeing Union-Management Struggle Enters New Phase

(CQ-Roll Call/TNS) -

The struggle between labor and capital at America’s premier commercial aircraft manufacturer has entered a new chapter.

This week, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents many production-line employees at Boeing plants in the state of Washington, said it has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election for more than 2,400 production workers at Boeing’s non-union plant in North Charleston, S.C.

It’s now up to the NLRB to schedule an election.

Reacting to the NLRB filing, Beverly Wyse, Boeing South Carolina’s vice president and general manager, said it was the non-union workers at the South Carolina plant who made it a success.

This is also the week that Boeing delivered its first Dreamliner of the 787-9 series assembled in South Carolina to United Airlines.

“The IAM aggressively opposed” the South Carolina plant, Wyse said, “as publicly demonstrated by their filing of a claim with the National Labor Relations Board, to try to keep our site from even opening. Now, simply by filing this petition, the same union that tried to take our jobs and our work, has already begun to divide our team at a time when we’re just beginning to gel and catch a solid rhythm in production.”

Fervently anti-union in this battle is South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, who said in her State of the State speech in January, “Every time you hear a Seattle union boss carry on about how he has the best interests of the Boeing workers in Charleston at heart, remember this: If it was up to that same union boss, there would be no Boeing workers in Charleston.”

Meanwhile, in Washington state, the legislature is considering a bill that would curtail a tax break for Boeing that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law in 2013.

The tax break apparently helped persuade Boeing to keep work on the new version of the 777 in Everett, Wash.

Democratic state Rep. June Robinson is proposing to make the tax break conditional. She said, “If Boeing jobs leave the state, the tax break will gradually go away. If the jobs stay in Washington, Boeing keeps the tax break. It’s simple and it’s fair.”

According to the Everett Herald’s Jerry Cornfield, “Robinson’s bill is the handiwork of the unions representing machinists and aerospace engineers. It stems from frustration that the 2013 law didn’t stop layoffs or prevent Boeing from shifting hundreds of jobs to other states without penalty.”