By Andy Owens
Published Sept. 10, 2009
Boeing workers in North Charleston voted to decertify the Machinists union by a vote of 199 to 68 this afternoon.
The election was held by the National Labor Relations Board in response to a petition an employee filed for union decertification in July.
The results of the vote won’t be official until certified by the National Labor Relations Board seven days after the vote, said Boeing Charleston spokeswoman Candy Eslinger. She said that window gives time for any objections to be lodged.
The Boeing plant in North Charleston builds fuselage sections of the Chicago-based company’s 787 Dreamliner, which are shipped to Everett, Wash., for final assembly.
Boeing is considering Charleston and Everett, among other sites, as potential locations for a second Dreamliner assembly line. Eslinger said whether Boeing chooses Charleston, Everett or another site has nothing to do with the presence of the union or Thursday’s vote.
“There is absolutely no connection between the two, no connection between the union vote that’s happening today and the selection of a second line location,” she said hours before the votes were cast.
Dennis Murray filed a petition to decertify the 2-year-old Machinists union local on July 30. That same day Boeing announced it was buying the local fuselage assembly operation from Dallas-based Vought Aircraft Industries, a key supplier for the Dreamliner program. Boeing also owns 50% of Global Aeronautica, another nearby plant building and integrating sections of the 787.
“It’s time to let the people make up their own minds,” Murray said after the hearing in August.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers vowed to work to keep the union in the Boeing plant during the weeks leading up to the decertification vote. Bob Wood, spokesman for the Machinists union, said the union wanted to educate workers about the union and its role.
“What the people who are for this (decertification) want is for them (workers) to never again have democratic due process on the job,” Wood said earlier. “We are certainly going to work hard to educate and inform everyone at Boeing, at this facility, about how important that democratic due process is.”
The vote took place over several hours Thursday afternoon at the Boeing Charleston facility near Charleston International Airport. About 280 hourly employees are represented by the union, whether or not they are dues-paying members of the union. In right-to-work South Carolina, union membership cannot be forced, though contract terms are applied uniformly.
The contract agreed upon by the Machinists union and Vought was a three-year deal, but it had to be renegotiated after Boeing acquired the plant. The opening up of the contract allowed for employees to petition for decertification, said Howard Neidig, assistant to the regional director at the NLRB office in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Ashley Fletcher Frampton and Molly Parker contributed to this report.