April 14, 2015
IAM may postpone vote in South Carolina to avoid potential defeat
The International Association of Machinists (AIM) currently has 35,000 Boeing employees as members of their union, and overall the union has some 370,000 dues paying members countrywide. However immediate focus is on 3,000 Boeing employees at the South Carolina factory who are not union members. AIM is sending out union representatives through the community to advise workers prior to a vote as to the benefits they would be entitled to if they were to become AIM members. These benefits include raising their pay to a level of parity with workers at Boeing’s Washington plant, which is unionized. However there would appear to be much confusion over what benefits would be gained by joining AIM in relation to benefits which may be lost, including healthcare.
There is much in-fighting going on at Boeing’s North Charleston set up in South Carolina as Boeing are determined to stop the workforce becoming unionized, making it clear that were this to become the case, Bryan Derreberry, president of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, said they would seriously have to rethink their strategy for the future. Boeing have invested over US$750m in creating the 787 factory in North Charleston and is planning to invest a further US$1.0bn to expand engine casing and aircraft interior production.
Aim’s current problem is that they want to avoid defeat in the petition for a vote by workers to become union members. A more than 50% agreement from the 8,5000 current employees at North Charleston would be required for the option to become union members to then be voted on. The fact that some 3,000 members are being directly targeted would indicate that AIM are not confident of achieving the required percentage. Now if AIM were to strategically withdraw from the current campaign and work further behind the scenes, then it could push for a petition to vote in six months’ time. However if AIM go ahead and the petition fails to get the necessary votes, then they would have to wait another year before trying again.
Part of AIM’s drive to get a union foothold with Boeing in South Carolina is the fact that this is a region of the USA which has minimal representation from the unions. South Carolina has a 2.2% union workforce membership and North Carolina has just 1.9% union representation, which does not compare favourably with the 16.8% union workforce membership found in Washington State.