Machinists consider withdrawing request for S.C. Boeing vote

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Machinists union is considering withdrawing its request to hold a union vote next week for production workers at Boeing’s manufacturing operations in North Charleston where the aeronautics giant has a 787 Dreamliner assembly plant.

Union spokesman Frank Larkin said Wednesday any decision would be “based on the results of the house polling effort that is currently underway to determine levels of support.”

He said no decision has been made but “it is something being considered.” He said there is no timetable for a decision.

The Machinists petitioned the National Labor Relations Board last month to hold an April 22 election. Almost 3,200 of the approximately 7,500 Boeing workers in South Carolina are eligible to vote.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, strongly opposes unions and has been urging workers to vote no. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey has also criticized the unionization effort.

Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said Wednesday she would not be surprised if the union withdraws the petition, especially after what happened in its recent attempt to unionize Delta flight attendants.

The union recently withdrew its request for a union election for flight attendants. The National Mediation Board has referred that organizing drive to the Justice Department over questions about fraudulent signatures on cards asking for an election.

Boeing workers have said people from out of town have been knocking on their doors to generate union support and “many of our teammates have told us directly that they don’t want or need union representation and they want these intrusive home visits to stop,” Eslinger said.

While 30 percent of the workers in a potential bargaining unit must sign cards they want a union vote, a majority must approve union representation.

If the Machinists withdraw their Boeing petition, it would be at least six months before an election could be held. If workers reject unionization in a vote, it would be at least a year before another vote.

National Labor Relations Board spokeswoman Jessica Kahanek said the union could withdraw the petition for the vote any time before ballots are cast.

The vote would involve production workers at the company’s 787 assembly plant and the nearby Interiors Responsibility Center, which provides interior parts for Dreamliner. The vote also includes production workers at Boeing’s new propulsion plant.

Four years ago, shortly before Boeing opened its $750 million assembly plant, the NLRB filed a complaint alleging the nonunion plant was built in retaliation against Washington state workers who went on strike.

The NLRB dropped the complaint after Boeing agreed that the 737 Max would be built in Washington.

BY BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press

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