Union vote set for some South Carolina Boeing workers

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Some employees at Boeing’s plant in South Carolina have voted join the International Association of Machinists union. | AP file photo

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Some employees at Boeing’s plant in South Carolina will soon vote on whether they want to join the International Association of Machinists union.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled Monday that 178 flight readiness technicians and inspectors at the manufacturer’s North Charleston plant can vote on whether to join the union. Balloting is scheduled for May 31.

According to local media outlets, Boeing has said that it will appeal the ruling, arguing that the smaller group is too hard to set different rules for and that any union vote should include all 3,000 production employees. In a March hearing, Boeing said work done by the flight line employees is so intertwined with the rest of the facility that the small group can’t be parsed out for collective bargaining.

The larger group rejected unionization by a three to one margin last year. According to the union, the smaller group has different duties and should be allowed to vote separately.

Flight line workers are tasked with getting planes ready for test flights, performing inspections and responding to issues raised by pilots. In the March hearing, a union attorney said those workers have licensing requirements that other employees don’t have and are given special bonuses, training and even clothing that set them apart from the rest of the assembly staff.

The Machinists, the country’s largest aerospace union, already represents more than 35,000 Boeing employees at 24 locations nationwide.

This marks the third time the Machinists have attempted to organize Boeing workers in North Charleston. A 2015 effort ended when the union withdrew its petition days before a scheduled election.

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