By Meg Kinnard / Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Nearly two dozen Democratic U.S. senators are calling on the Boeing Co. to negotiate with a union now representing some employees at a South Carolina plant.
On Wednesday, 23 Senate Democrats penned a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, asking the company to recognize the International Association of Machinists, as the company has at its facilities in the state of Washington.
“Boeing’s accomplishments would not have been possible without the skills, dedication, and ingenuity of the IAMWA workers that build your planes,” wrote the lawmakers, which include both senators from Washington, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
South Carolina’s U.S. senators, both Republicans, are not signatories to the letter.
Flight-line employees at Boeing’s North Charleston plant decided in May to join the Machinists. The aerospace giant campaigned against the organizers, losing a last-minute request to delay the election after an anti-union social media campaign.
At the time, a company spokesman said Boeing believed the “micro-unit” was illegal, arguing that it was too difficult to set different rules for the smaller group and that any union vote should include all 3,000 production employees at the sprawling North Charleston campus. In a March hearing, Boeing said that 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.
Boeing has appealed the vote, asking the National Labor Relations Board to toss it out because flight-line workers aren’t a distinct group from the rest of the plant. Last month, South Carolina’s governor also asked federal officials to overturn the vote, saying that allowing the union would threaten the state’s economy.
The same union failed to attract enough support to represent all of the plant’s hourly workers last year, losing by a three-to-one margin. The Machinists, the country’s largest aerospace union, already represents more than 35,000 Boeing employees at 24 locations nationwide.