Machinists union plans 'major' announcement about Boeing Friday

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has scheduled what a spokesperson calls a "major announcement" for Friday morning about Boeing's North Charleston plant.

The announcement will concern "the ongoing organizing campaign to secure collective bargaining rights for workers at Boeing's North Charleston operation," IAM spokesperson Jonathan Battaglia said. Labor and community groups supporting Boeing employees' efforts to form a union are also expected to attend, he said.

The union says the announcement will regard the future campaign for improving worker wages and better working conditions.

In 2015 the IAM tried to garner support from workers to sign a petition to form a union. According to a spokesperson, they withdrew that petition after they say Boeing officials created a "toxic environment" for their workers during IAM's campaign.

Boeing spokesperson Loretta Gunter issued a statement Thursday regarding the scheduled announcement:

"Our team is focused on production and rollout of the historic first 787-10 that will be built exclusively here in South Carolina, despite the IAM's claims that it should be built in Seattle and that "Boeing's best chance for success is in Puget Sound." We are not going to speculate on the reason for the IAM reaching out to the media tomorrow, although we have heard the IAM publicly state their intent to file ever since they ran away from their first petition here in 2015. 

We've said consistently over the past several years, and we continue to believe, that a union is not in the best interest of our teammates, our business, our community or our state. We think it's important that our teammates, friends, business colleagues and community leaders in South Carolina know that our position has not changed."

As recent as Tuesday, Boeing SC posted to Facebook urging people to say "No" to the IAM's attempt at forming a union.

Comments from people, who appear to be employees, shared their thoughts for and against a union stating, "They act like they will fail with a union, but most Boeing sites are union and running well," "[I] do not want to jeopardize my job for a union that will not get anything more than I already have."

According to Battaglia, he's heard some concerns from Boeing SC workers about a variety of things.

"Evidently there's been a lot of changes with the schedules… and [workers are getting] late notices [about it]," he said.

Battaglia also mentioned workers at the North Charleston site are not making the same amount of money as the workers at the Everett, Washington site are making for the same work; management is playing favorites.

According to Boeing SC's website, as of December 22, 2016 they employed 7,609 workers. Battaglia estimates 2,800 of those employers would be eligible to join a union.

In order for an election to happen 30-percent, or 840 Boeing SC workers, would need to sign a card, which would then be sent to the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB would then verify those names based on a list of employees Boeing SC would have to send to the board.

Once everything is approved, an election could then take place.

A union organizer in Georgetown estimates an election for Boeing SC workers could take place 2-3 weeks after everything is approved, based on new rules established during the Obama administration for the NLRB.

As of this afternoon, a spokesperson in the NLRB Atlanta office, which handles election petitions in this area, had not received a request from the IAM.

The announcement will be made at the International Longshoremen's Association on Morrison Drive in downtown Charleston at 7 a.m.

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