By Mike Elk
Today, Boeing workers in North Charleston, South Carolina voted against unionizing by a margin of 2097 to 731.
The devastating loss caps a six-year-long campaign by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Now, workers must wait a year before having another union election at the plant.
“We’re disappointed the workers at Boeing South Carolina will not yet have the opportunity to see all the benefits that come with union representation” said IAM lead organizer Mike Evans. “But more than anything, we are disheartened they will have to continue to work under a system that suppresses wages, fosters inconsistency and awards only a chosen few.”
Donald Trump is slated to visit the plant on Friday. It’s unclear if he will celebrate the defeat of the union.
Boeing and the entire South Carolina GOP establishment campaigned heavily against the union drive. According to data from advertising tracker Kantar Media/CMAG analyzed by Bloomberg Businessweek, Boeing ran 485 TV ads against the Machinists and the anti-union South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance ran an additional 350 ads advocating against unionization.
The groups warned that if Boeing went union, it would dissuade other companies from coming to South Carolina. The anti-union forces attempted to turn the community against the union drive as the same forces had successfully done in defeating the 2014 UAW drive at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The UAW was widely criticized for failing to run an effective community campaign to counter the union busters.
The Machinists, though, fought back and organized effective community outreach. The union hosted community potlucks, sponsored little league teams, and ran food drives for the local community. They also invested $20,000 in their own TV ads.
“Boeing management spent a lot of money to make sure power and profits remained concentrated at the very top. The company’s anti-union conduct reached new lows,” said Evans. “The IAM remains committed to getting Boeing South Carolina workers the respect, wages and consistency they deserve.”
It’s unclear what will happen next. The union cannot hold another union election for a year.
“Ultimately it will be the workers who dictate what happens next,” said Evans. “We’ve been fortunate enough to talk with hundreds of Boeing workers over the past few years. Nearly every one of them, whether they support the union or not, have improvements they want to see at Boeing. Frankly, they deserve better.”
Mike Elk is a Sidney award winner and a lifetime member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild. He previously worked as the senior labor reporter at POLITICO, as an investigative reporter at In These Times Magazine, and has written for The New York Times. In 2015, Elk was illegally fired for union organizing at POLITICO and used his NLRB settlement to found Payday Report in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
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