Is Boeing Getting A Union At Their Non-Union Plant?

Boeing has long been a stalwart in the Seattle area, boasting multiple campuses and over 80,000 employees across Washington State.  In the late part of the last decade, Boeing was having labor troubles and opened up a bid process to build a new facility to support the growth of the 787.

Union employees said it was retaliation for contract negotiations.  Boeing said it wasn’t so.  The moral of the story was a new facility in South Carolina.  What did South Carolina offer?  Lots of tax incentives.  And, a right-to-work state.  The new facility opened in 2011 and is turning out 787s as we speak.

4 years later, there’s been relative labor peace recently at Boeing, but there are still some squabbles, including a decision by the National Labor Relations Board that said Boeing’s South Carolina strategy was retaliation.

It was just about a week ago when Boeing’s unionized employees made a step forward in South Carolina, winning the right to hold a vote for unionization at the new facility.

That’s great news for the union, who would love to win representation for the 3,000-ish employees eligible to vote.  But, because of the differences in South Carolina (right-to-work), even if the union “wins” the vote, employees who choose not to be a part of the union won’t be required to join and pay dues.  It also means those non-union members are unlikely to join a work-action by union members.

My wife was a school teacher for a number of years and joined the union at the beginning of her career based on pressure from her fellow teachers.  After a few years, she realized that non-union teachers got the same benefits and didn’t have to pay union dues.  She also didn’t see the hallmarks unions trumpet, like pay increases or improvements in benefits.  She watched some of the younger teachers who hadn’t been in the union for decades drop out and pocket the dues.  They received the same pay and benefits as union employees.  I would suspect there will be similar people in South Carolina who either don’t believe in unions (to say that unions aren’t popular in South Carolina is an understatement) or can’t afford the dues.

But, it’s still progress for the unions and something Boeing certainly didn’t want to see happen.  I’m not specifically anti-union, but I do believe many aspects have outlived their usefulness.  For issues of worker safety, there may still be validity, but there are many more OSHA protections today than there were decades ago.  Similarly, increases in minimum wage have lessened the necessity to have unions fighting for higher wages.  It’s not that unions are worthless, but they are worth…less.  Working conditions as a whole have improved immensely in the US.

Exhibit 1 of the changes in issues today’s unions are dealing with can be found in American Airlines’ search for a new uniform:

APA reps presented their views to American Airlines management Wednesday afternoon. The hotline said the APA delegation was directed to state “our strong desire” for six things, and we quote from the hotline.

1. A single-breasted/double-breasted choice, (if no choice is allowed, APA prefers the single-breasted jacket),

2. Acknowledgment of the need for regional/operational differences (e.g. Domestic vs. International, Caribbean, including an optional leather bomber jacket etc.),

3. American made pilot uniform (preferably union made),

4. Top quality fabric, fit and production,

5. Fabric that does not create allergy or health issues for crews, and

6. Another pilot wear test and survey with our concerns addressed before final decisions are made.

Sure, materials that don’t create allergic reactions are a solid idea.  But, I can’t imagine there are many employees who feel their dues are being well spent so the union can communicate the “strong desire” for union-made uniforms and more than one choice of jackets.


The post Is Boeing Getting A Union At Their Non-Union Plant? was published first on Pizza In Motion.

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3 Comments

  1. I don’t think you realize the history of Union progress, and discount the value of collective bargaining – especially as income equality grows so rapidly. Also look at Volkswagen in TN – the company wants a Union cause it helps management in resolving work conditions. That said, I agree to a right to work condition. The Union should earn its membership. My Union AFSME isn’t earning my dues, but I can only un-join once a year 🙁

    1. Bill, I think the unions made significant progress in the past, just less so now. And, I think the Volkswagen situation has layers. I mean, VW invited them in for the union vote and the union still couldn’t get a majority to vote in favor. And, if I recall, the agreement also contained a provision that the UAW would agree not to schedule another organizing vote for a period of time (2 years, maybe?). VW also has a long history of that sort of work structure. But, you don’t need a union to invite your employees to have a say in the future of the company. We’re doing it right now in one of the companies I manage. And, we offer more benefits and better pay than any other employer in our segment in that region. Forcing everyone into a one-size fits all model just isn’t going to fit too many companies nowadays. The recent AA merger is a good example, where the flight attendants lost a contract vote by the rank and file that the union leaders had already agreed to. There were enough discrete groups that didn’t see benefits from the changes in total that they voted it down.

      There are certainly industries where collective bargaining can still be useful, but the majority of vocations have enough other choices or outside pressures to promote competitive wages. See McDonald’s recent decision to raise wages for their employees. They see the Walmarts of the world doing so and likely realize they won’t be able to compete for quality employees if they don’t pay more money.

  2. I’m not political but I can especially understand why conservatice people wouldnt want to be in a union. Looking at breakdowns of how most AFL-CIO unions spend their money, close to1/3 of it is spent on political causes, almost all of which are progressive. So being in a union does mean supporting democratic candidates.

    I would suspect that at a plant with no union history, in a very conservative state, relatively few people would join since they get all the benefits of the CBA without paying 500-1000 dollars a month and supporting progressive causes.

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