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IAM Confident as Unionization Effort Gets Underway at South Carolina Boeing Plant

Boeing's SC plant

Boeing’s SC plant

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An organizing effort by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) in North Charleston, SC could result in a union at the facility for the first time since 2009.

One of the workers publicly in favor of unionization at the facility is Farrington James.  He began working there just prior to Boeing announcing their expansion into South Carolina.  James has been making regular visits to the IAM union hall and passing out authorization cards at work.  If 30 percent of the workers at the facility sign authorization cards, a union vote can be held.  James understands the importance of his words and actions to fellow union supporters and coworkers:

“I know, learning from these guys, that it’s a can of worms,” James says, gesturing to the two union organizers working at their desks across the room. “But at the same time, we want to get some visibility on this and inspire other workers to really understand it’s OK to talk to people. I think it’ll be the start of something great.”

A brief history of unions at the facility from the Charleston City Paper:

Boeing’s North Charleston facility, which employs about 7,500 people including contractors, has not had a union since 2009. At that time, there were two much smaller plant buildings on the site owned by Boeing subcontractors Vought Aircraft Industries and Global Aeronautica, and the few hundred workers there had voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) just two years prior. But on the same day in July 2009 when Boeing announced it would purchase the Vought facility, a quality inspector at the site filed a petition to decertify the union, according to the Charleston Regional Business Journal. In September 2009, workers voted 199 to 68 to leave the union. In October 2009, Boeing announced it had selected North Charleston as an assembly site for its cutting-edge 787 Dreamliner, bringing thousands of new jobs to the union-free South Carolina site and snubbing Boeing’s facility in Everett, Wash., where many employees are IAM members.

Across the South, unions are making small gains and spreading their message despite the heavy-handed rhetoric that is relentlessly used against them.  IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger recently spoke about labor’s recent progress with America’s Workforce Radio:

“When they say you can’t organize in the South, we keep proving that axiom wrong almost on a weekly basis,” Buffenbarger told AWF host Ed “Flash” Ferenc…

“It’s funny how all of this is going to unfold,” said Buffenbarger. “The efforts by Sen. Corker and the governor of Tennessee to slam labor may turn around and backfire on them and ignite a wave of organizing. That’s what I see coming.”

The Boeing facility is not alone in its potential for better working conditions. According to the Charleston City Paper, “the Medical University of South Carolina, and some local fast-food franchises” are also in the throes of organizing efforts.


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