South Carolina Boeing workers reject unionization bid

It appears that somebody is getting the message, at least in South Carolina. A growing movement around the nation in support of right to work policies has dealt one blow after another to organized labor. The latest edition of the story comes to us out of South Carolina where one of the nation’s larger unions has been attempting to organize workers at the Boeing plant. That proposal came up for a vote this week and the results speak for themselves. Employees rejected the plan and the final vote wasn’t even close. (Fox News)

Nearly three-quarters of eligible production workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant voted Wednesday not to join the International Association of Machinists in a major setback for organized labor.

The Post & Courier newspaper reported that 2,097 of 2,828 voting workers — 74.2 percent — cast ballots against unionization.

Under NLRB rules, workers must wait a year before another union vote. In a statement, Machinists organizer Mike Evans said the union was disappointed with the vote but vowed to stay in close touch with Boeing workers to figure out next steps.

“Ultimately it will be the workers who dictate what happens next,” Evans said. “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.”

Not that I’m offering too much sympathy to the Association of Machinists here, but they were facing an uphill battle from the beginning. Before leaving for a position in the Trump administration, former governor Nikki Haley had been a frequent and vocal critic of the unions and a promoter of right to work policies which would make her state a more attractive home for large employers such as Boeing. State legislators had also been on board an the airwaves were peppered with advertisements reminding people precisely why Boeing had considered coming to South Carolina in the first place.

Considering how lopsided the vote was, it’s difficult to see what might possibly change over the next 12 months (the amount of time the union will have to wait before they can try again) which could lead to a different outcome. And why would the workers want to suddenly change course and head down a trail which has led to significant job losses and recession conditions in other states where unions maintain iron-fisted control? South Carolina was an early leader in the right to work movement and began their recovery from the great recession faster than a number of other states precisely because of these policies. Take a look at these figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the unemployment rate over the past several years.

There’s an old saying about not changing horses mid-race and that’s particularly true when you’re in the lead. Boeing is producing a significant number of well-paying jobs and holds the promise for this to continue well into the future. Entire families in that region can look forward to continued opportunity and secure retirements as long as the airline industry remains in the area. But the workers need to remember that Boeing moved once and, while it would be expensive, there’s nothing stopping them from doing it again. A business friendly environment is the rising tide which lifts all boats, or in this case airplanes.

Congratulations to Boeing’s workers on a wise decision. As for the union, better luck next time I suppose.

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