Boeing Accused of Unfair Labor Tactics as Union Cancels Vote

(Bloomberg News/TNS) -

Boeing Co. faces a complaint of worker intimidation from the Machinists union, which canceled an election at the company’s only commercial-jet factory whose employees are not represented by a labor organization.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said in a petition to the National Labor Relations Board that Boeing “unlawfully interfered” with its organizing effort at the South Carolina plant “by deliberately encouraging and promoting harassment, assaults, and threats of violence against union supporters.”

The union is regrouping after scrapping the representation election, scheduled for Wednesday, and delaying another election by at least six months. It suspended home visits to the 3,100 Boeing workers eligible to vote after two organizers were threatened at gunpoint, blaming the overheated environment on Boeing and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, an organized-labor opponent.

“An atmosphere of threats, harassment and unprecedented political interference has intimidated workers to the point we don’t believe a free and fair election is possible,” said Mike Evans, the Machinists’ lead organizer.

The Machinists’ “allegations are frivolous and our team is continuing to focus on building the highest-quality airplanes in the world,” Doug Alder, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, said in an e-mailed response.

Haley, who had criticized the organizing effort in speeches, commercials and on social media, said in an e-mail: “In South Carolina, our workers know that we always have their back.”

The North Charleston plant, which manufacturers 787 Dreamliners, is pivotal to both sides of the argument. The Machinists want to establish a stronghold in the aerospace hub emerging in the Southeastern U.S. as Boeing and Airbus Group expand manufacturing in the region.

In South Carolina, just 2.2 percent of employees are represented by unions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only in North Carolina do unions have a smaller share of the workforce.