Boeing Co. workers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to disband the union at the North Charleston factory, boosting prospects corporate officials will consider the Lowcountry for a second assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner.
Of the fewer than 300 International Association of Machinist organized workers at the local plant eligible to vote, 199 voted to decertify the union and 68 voted to keep it in place, Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said.
“We are pleased that hourly workers elected to deal directly with the company on employment matters,” Eslinger said. “We are also pleased that Boeing Charleston can move forward and meet commitments on the 787 program.”
She discounted talk that the vote can be construed to influence Boeing’s decision later this year on whether or not to build a second assembly line in North Charleston.
“The two are not connected whatsoever,” she said.
Dallas-based IAM spokesman Bob Wood blamed Boeing for playing one community against another.
“While we believe the workers at the South Carolina Boeing Plant would be better served and their rights protected with union representation, ultimately, it was a decision those workers would make,” Wood said.
“We are frustrated that Boeing did not remain neutral and allow these workers to make a decision free from pressure, intimidation and coercion,” he said. “Boeing is playing a perverse game of pitting community against community for the most taxpayer money, and pitting worker against worker for the cheapest possible labor, using these tough economic times to take advantage of both. The IAM will continue to be here for aerospace workers in the United States.”
The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the secret-ballot election, must certify the vote within seven days, Eslinger said.
Dennis Murray, a quality inspector from Summerville who filed a petition to decertify the IAM vote shortly after Boeing bought the former Vought Aircraft Industries plant in late July in a $1 billion deal, did not immediately return calls for comment. The union organized two years ago.
Boeing has said it is studying several sites for a second 787 assembly plant, including North Charleston and its existing manufacturing hub outside Seattle. A decision is expected by the end of the year.
Boeing has had strained relations with the IAM, raising concerns at its manufacturing hub near Seattle that the company might build a new 787 line in North Charleston The union staged an eight-week strike last year that compounded delays in producing passenger jets at the Puget Sound assembly line.
The local factory makes fuselage sections for Boeing’s 787 jet.
The Boeing Co. notified South Carolina officials last month that it will seek permits to build an aircraft assembly line for its 787 jet in North Charleston in a move that intensifies the coast-to-coast jockeying for the jobs the plant would create.
Boeing insisted that the move should not be interpreted as a decision to locate the assembly line in South Carolina but that it needed months of lead time to get permits in place in case the second assembly line is added and the Lowcountry is selected.