Petition to unionize specific workers at Boeing South Carolina

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - After a majority of Boeing workers voted "NO" to unionizing last year, the same company is petitioning to represent a specific group of workers.

Arguments started Tuesday between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists – also known as IAM.

This is the third time in less than three years IAM has sought to unionize Boeing South Carolina.

Last year, 74 percent of Boeing workers voted "no" to unionize.

Now, IAM is looking to represent only a specific group of workers and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is working to determine whether they can do that.

"This is the IAM's attempt to just get in the door," local attorney Mark Peper said. "So, they're trying to get in the back door."

The group they are wanting to represent are the DEJ1 flight readiness technicians (FRT) and DEJ1 flight readiness technician inspectors (FRTI).

Boeing officials said there were about 187 employees with these titles.

The main question being argued is if all Boeing employees do similar jobs or if this specific group, of flight line employees, does something that is completely different and does not compare in any way to what the other Boeing employees do.

"That's the only question that's being litigated at this point," Peper said. "If the NLRB were to come back and say these guys do something that nobody else can do, therefore they are in a class by themselves, they may be able to unionize."

Boeing argued during opening statements there is an overlap between what each of the employees do, including the FRT and FRTI workers.

IAM stated, however, these specific workers have unique tasks, skills and licenses.

No word on how long this hearing could last. The NLRB will decide whether there will be another election to unionize.

IAM released the following statement Tuesday night:

"Many of these workers have enjoyed the protection of a union contract before and understand the benefits of a union job. We hope that instead of challenging our right to join together at work, Boeing will trust its South Carolina teammates to decide what's best for their families and the company. We strongly believe that 'One Boeing' means all employees should share equally in the success of the company."

Boeing officials also released the following statement:

Today, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) began hearing testimony from Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) regarding the IAM's petition to organize the flight line teammates in Boeing South Carolina.

We strongly believe that this type of filing, commonly referred to as a micro-unit, is not allowed under federal law. We also believe it's an attempt by the IAM to divide our team while protecting the union's main membership base.

As we've said consistently over the past several years, we believe that union representation is not in the best interest of our teammates, our business, our community or our state.

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