New Boeing workers file to decertify Machinists union

By Molly Parker
mparker@scbiznews.com
Published July 31, 2009

An employee at The Boeing Co.’s newly-acquired North Charleston operation has filed a request with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a decertification election that could disband the local Machinists union.

The petition was filed on Thursday, the same day Boeing completed its purchase of the plant from Vought Aircraft Industries for $580 million.

“The premise is that at least 30% of the work force has indicated that they no longer want to be represented by the Machinists union,” said Howard Neidig, assistant to the regional director at the NLRB’s regional office located in Winston-Salem, N.C.

This move could have far-reaching implications as Boeing looks for a second assembly line for its 787 Dreamliner program. North Charleston is on a short-list of possible sites. The primary assembly line is in Everett, Wash., near Seattle.

Workers represented by the Machinists union in Washington walked off the job late last year for two months. Labor strife has cost the Chicago-headquartered company tens of millions and is among chief causes of delays in the testing and delivery schedule of the Dreamliner. The same union has represented workers in North Charleston for the last two years.

Related story
Boeing to pick assembly plant site by ‘year’s end’

Dennis Murray of Summerville, a quality inspector at the facility, said he filed the petition for the decertification vote because he felt as though the union was poorly representing employees.

“I don’t like being stabbed in the back and having bluff and bluster rule the day,” Murray said.

In October 2007, Vought workers, by a 67-60 margin, voted to join the Machinists union. Just more than a year later, the union voted to ratify a contract, settling a year of talks between the union and Dallas-based Vought. But several workers were outraged over how the vote was handled, saying union representatives failed to inform most members of an 11th-hour meeting that was called only days before Vought announced it would be idling its plant for several months.

Workers familiar with the vote say that only 13 people attended the meeting, with all but one voting in favor of the contract. Union spokesman Bob Wood would only say that the contract was ratified by 92% of voting members. The union refused to comment on how many people attended the meeting, but maintained that the timing was necessary because the company was set to lay off most of its work force the following business day. The contract ensured callback rights by seniority.

At the time, Paul Gaudrault, who attended the meeting, told the Charleston Regional Business Journal that it was unfair that a dozen employees “basically laid the foundation and had the fate of 300 in their hands.” He was the only union member present who voted against the contract.

Vought recognized the contract -- it was a deal the company had put on the table -- though Vought said in a release at the time that it was taken by surprise by the vote because additional bargaining sessions were scheduled and final proposals had not been exchanged.

It was the secretiveness of the contract vote that irritated most workers, Murray said. Murray said some employees at the time inquired to the National Labor Relations Board about whether they had rights to overturn the contract agreement. The NLRB told them their only recourse was to vote for decertification 60 to 90 days before the three-year contract was set to expire.

That would have been in 2011, but the game changed when Boeing acquired
the Vought facility as part of an effort to streamline its supply chain as it relates to the 787 program. The local plant, along with neighboring Global Aeronautica, performs work on sections of the jet's fuselage. It would be illegal for Boeing officials to request a decertification vote, and Murray said he was not approached by the company.

Scott Fancher, Boeing’s 787 program manager, told the Charleston Regional
Business Journal
earlier this month that the company would recognize the
union, but would have to renegotiate the contract.

“From a transaction standpoint, what we are required to do is either recognize the union contract or not,” Fancher said. “We’ll be recognizing it, but we also have to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with them because their agreement is with the Vought company.”

That reopening of the contract allowed for employees to file the petition for decertification, Murray said.

Neidig said the NLRB would also have to rule on whether this is the appropriate time for such an election. He said he was too unfamiliar with the details to comment. Additionally, Neidig said the NLRB does not comment on what percentage of the work force requests the vote. The board will only certify that he 30% threshold has been reached.

Still, Murray, who collected the signatures, said that “well over 30%, probably closer to twice that” signed the petition that he circulated during non-working hours.

“I didn’t even try hard,” he said.

Murray said the main reason employees are seeking the decertification is because they do not agree with the way the union has operated here. But he hopes a side benefit is that North Charleston may look more appealing to Boeing when its ocation for the second assembly line is selected.

“Do I think that would possibly open the door for the second assembly? I would certainly hope so, because we have a lot to offer here,” Murray said.

Fancher said it would be oversimplifying to say that labor issues will drive the company’s decision, but he hinted that it could be a major factor.

“I think any company with a large production system wants to diversify its risk and its exposure to opportunities for disruption and that often leads companies to looking at different geographic areas to do work,” he said earlier this month.

Reach Molly Parker at 843-901-0441.

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Comments:

Added: 31 Jul 2009

Dennis Murray shame on you! I'm not surprised that you tricked your co-workers into dissention, only on a property where Union Representation is available to the employees have a right to voice their opinions without the threat of discharge or discipline hanging over their heads. Even if you, a dissenter, were fired today the Machinists Union would take your grievance all the way to arbitration. When the employees of your company were signing your petition did you inform them that if they decertified their Union that they would be left to the "generosity" of the company? Shame on you! I hope for your co-workers sakes that you are unsucessful.

Rocky


Added: 1 Aug 2009

Rocky, Obviously you have no idea what you are talking about. As one of the people who "benefited" from this wonderful contract that was ratified by 13 out of 300 people, plus the underhandedness of the IAW, we lost 80% of the benefits we previously had. The IAW's lousy excuse that they ratified it to "protect" the callback rights of the laid of people doesn't wash....where else did anyone think Vought would get the people to take their place 3 months later...the local 7-Eleven? People here are a bit more intelligent than you give them credit for, which is the reason why 2/3 of the hourly workforce want the union out of here. Take a look at our benefits before unionization and then after. I hope other companies out there in SC learn from what happened to us.

J


Added: 1 Aug 2009

And commenter #1 is a union operative. Had the union actually cared about representing the workers instead of collecting their dues tribute, a conttract wouldn't have been ratified by 13 employees. The strawman argument that no one represents the employee is a complete joke. There are so many laws in place to protect employees and employers have enacted numerous programs to ensure fair treatment of employees, employees get next to nothing for the forced donation to the union. The union 'protects' only those lousy employees who have no business on the job and who make it harder for good employees to do their jobs.

Bob


Added: 1 Aug 2009

Rocky: Obviously you were sent to the site by the Union or you do not know the whole story. Yes, the union is supposed to look out for the worker, this one did not. The "contract" LOST these worker shift differnetial, benefits, pay for position and a very large list of other benfits. 13 people chose for all, fair, I think not. And if you read the article Mr. Murray did NOT ask anyone to sign the petiition, the employees are smart enough to know they got SCREWED by the union that promised them the world and took away everything. Know the facts before you open your mouth and let your stupidity show.

Candie


Added: 1 Aug 2009

Just wait until you see the real Boeing. Besides your a pencil pusher QA person, your not doing physical work messing up your body like most of us at Boeing. Boeing will forget about you so fast. You are just a number and can be replaced because an assembly line in China is cheaper than South Carolina.

B. Dorsten


Added: 1 Aug 2009

To the few Management types who are posting their management facades for selfish reasons I will reply not to you but to my Union Brothers and Sisters. Management doesn't give a crap about us! They want the IAM gone and the sooner the better. We've never had it so good as we do now that we're Union. And don't give me that line of crap that the Union only protects bad workers. Hey, our Union is 121 years old, and protects our interests. Don't let these management staffers and wannabies take away our dignity. If some of you have a gripe about the vote or anything else about our representation then why don't you show up at the meetings? We discuss everything there. Also if you're not happy with your particular Union rep, Steward through Business Rep. THEN UNELECT THEM! I can assure you all the answer is not to decertify our Union. Look at the jerks that Manage Boeing, do you want to be here without somebody protecting your interests? Not me and none of my friends at work want this. Dennis Murray is a Management wannabie and all of you know it. Don't let that suck up wreck all of our lives.

Rocky


Added: 2 Aug 2009

Go ahead and decert if you want, but remember this: You work for Boeing now. Vought charlston is DEAD. For a year or two, it will be a regular honeymoon, then Boeing is going to cook you like frogs, slowly and steadily taking away until you have a fraction of what you started with. If you are so stupid as to trust Boeing, then you deserve what you get. But mind you, NOBODY trusts Boeing, not the dept of defense, The United States Air Force, congress, Wall St, it's investors or it's employees. Eventually you won't either, but it will be too late. Your first extended layoff will leave you wih no layoff benefits, no recall rights, no seniority. If you are a little older, and a little more expensive to keep around, Boeing will drop you like an hot rock and hire a cheaper younger person. You will have no voice, and nobody to look out for you. Your terms of employement today? Don't look for them to be better tomorrow. Don't expect federal discrimination laws to save you. Boeing's legal firms stand ready to fight you for years, spending whatever it takes to beat you down. Because remember this: You aren't human beings to Boeing. You are just another expense. One to be cut wherever, and however possible. The people in those commercials are all actors. When your work becomes a plausible target for outsourcing to china, malaysia, or some third world backwater, it's gone, and there will be NOBODY to oppose it. Just like you lost your textiles industry overseas, you Boeing jobs are in just as much jeopardy. If you want to keep that job you are going to have to fight for it. And without solidarity, you will be crushed.

Raoul


Added: 2 Aug 2009

"In October 2007, Vought workers, by a 67-60 margin, voted to join the Machinists union. Just more than a year later, the union voted to ratify a contract, settling a year of talks between the union and Dallas-based Vought. But several workers were outraged over how the vote was handled, saying union representatives failed to inform most members of an 11th-hour meeting that was called only days before Vought announced it would be idling its plant for several months. Workers familiar with the vote say that only 13 people attended the meeting, with all but one voting in favor of the contract. Union spokesman Bob Wood would only say that the contract was ratified by 92% of voting members. The union refused to comment on how many people attended the meeting, but maintained that the timing was necessary because the company was set to lay off most of its work force the following business day. The contract ensured callback rights by seniority." ===== I have a family member who worked at Vought when the contract vote took place. The meeting was announced less than 24 hours in advance, and no purpose for the meeting was listed. Keeping in mind that the original vote to be represented by the Union passed by a narrow margin (67-60 votes; 53%-47%), it appears the Union officials deliberately withheld the purpose of the meeting. When only 13 people showed up to the meeting and those in attendance voted 12-1 to ratify the contract, the Union was able to shout from the rooftops 92% of the voting members ratified the contract. That created the false impression that the majority of employees were behind the Union. If the Union had acted ethically, openly and honestly, I would have said "Good job." However, they have *permanently* lost any respect or support I might have given them. "J" got it right. When production resumed at Vought, where do you think they were going to get the workers from? As new as the factory was, they would have pulled from the workforce already trained. If they didn't call someone back, it would be because they weren't a productive employee as evidenced by attendance records, etc. To Rocky and B Dorsten: Don't let the door hit you in the posterior as you tuck your IAM tail between your legs and head back to Washington! Boeing-SC Family Member

Boeing-South Carolina Family Member


Added: 2 Aug 2009

How can some of you forget so quickly why we unionized in the first place? Boeing management will use and abuse us. Just ask their current employees. As a matter of fact look what Boeing is using us for. To blackmail them into working for less! You think they won't do that to us? No way can we allow a decertification, especially now. Besides, Dennis was working on company time and they were harrassing us all into signing the petition. Jeff

Rivit


Added: 2 Aug 2009

Rocky & Raoul... Please re-read the following:

Still, Murray, who collected the signatures, said that “well over 30%, probably closer to twice that” signed the petition that he circulated during non-working hours.

“I didn’t even try hard,” he said.

Murray said the main reason employees are seeking the decertification is because they do not agree with the way the union has operated here.


===

The IAM Leadership should re-evaluate who they have "running (their) show" in Charleston.

If they want to have *any* chance of not getting kicked out, they need to replace the local leaders and start operating above board, openly, honestly, ethically and with full and complete disclosure.

Boeing-South Carolina Family Member


Added: 2 Aug 2009

Maybe the Union didn't do everything that it could...but I can damn sure tell you that the driving force is the Boeing Company. Time and and time again they have screwed over its employees for the sake of profit. I am aick and tired of hearing of the 787 delays root cause being about the strike in the Puget Sound. If the workman ship of Vought was up to par it wouldnt be one of several companies that Boeing had to buy to train the workers what real mechanics do... Boeing Everett is the best, we build the best, and we are tried and true since 1916. We have been back to our lines now for almost a year and that freaking rock they call an airplane wich is almost been reduced to a blundering pile of composite cracks is still just that! A two month work stoppage had nothing to do with cracks and behind schedule vendors. Seriously the 787 is now almost three years behing...so use logic and tell me how 2 months is of great affect. It had everything to do with a bluff that the company called and lost. They needed a scape goat so they forced a hand...sounds like they are doing it to you too. So get over our strike already...get over yourselves already...you have what has been signed and rattified...and it sounds like it sucks....well buck up, put your big girl panties on and band together to fix it or the Big Corporation wins...and you loose. The Boeing Company motive has always been divide from within....plan, save, stratigize, but band together! Rose

Rose


Added: 3 Aug 2009

I'm a Seattle Boeing employee. In Washington State I'm forced to pay union dues (SPEEA) even though I do not want to be associated in any way with a union. I'm forced to support a union whether I like it or not and I don't like it. I remember the attitude of many of the IAM represented just before the Boeing IAM strike last fall. Many of the high seniority employees could afford a strike and were planning to go on strike regardless of the offer that they received from Boeing. They had worked the system to get lots of OT before the strike and then go on cruises, remodel their houses or whatever during the strike. Screw the short timers who couldn't afford a strike I guess. People planned in advance to serve their own interests without regard for the company or stock holders or coworkers. Too bad that Boeing is stuck with employees like that but the union sets up situations where people like that thrive. Well my advice to the new SC hourly team...to coin a phrase: Don't be stupid! All you have to do is to look at the GM and Chrysler to know what can happen when unions extort more pay for employees than the marketplace will bear. Sure some will say that the unions fared OK in the bankruptcy settlements but those companies still will need to be competitive with with the Toyotas and KIAs of hte world. Time will tell if they just dodged a bullet temporarily. You could also look at the steel industry. My father in law worked for Bethlehem Steel in Buffalo, New York. Unions were very strong in the steel industry. With environmental regulations, crappy management and strong unions that industry is but a shell of what it once was. Don't kid yourself, the same competitive situation is coming for Boeing. It comes to all companies and industris that believe that it can't happen to them and begin to suck off the system instead of building it up. I'm not worried about Airbus in the long run. China, Japan and other Aisian countries are making way in entering the commencial aircraft marketplace. If you are smart, you will realize that you're in an excellant position to be a competitor to the IAM in Seattle. In that position you will be able to get very competitive wages and benefits compared to the Seattle IAM members without the downsides of union representation. If you're smart you will find ways to work with Boeing instead of hiring a third party interest to represent you.

Bob


Added: 3 Aug 2009

57 days = 2 years delay.Good math! If that were really the case the plane should have flown end of january 09. It was already over a year late before the strike. Bottom line is that they had no software and no wing to body support to ever fly it. But i guess if we werent out for 57 days that wouldnt be the case.!

Bryan


Added: 4 Aug 2009

Here's another Puget Sound hourly that is sick and tired of the juvenile way union negotiators rant and decieve. Maybe the Boeing management is bad but so are the Union Gangsters. Just go to a meeting and get yelled down by big mouth union robots too braiwashed to even consider an idea not fed to them by the "Bosses".Just like our politicians they have an agenda to use you for their power and profit, not your benefit. The National is a huge Parasite feeding D.C. politicians for favoritism. Was the Florida party a good time for you while we were on the line?

Mike


Added: 4 Aug 2009

Typical Union mentality is allot of what I read here. The MAN'S got us DOWN!!. Wake up Union jackasses. Look what unions did for steel in the 70's look what unions did for GM, they had to give the benifits back to GM beacause they couldt do any thing but screw it up. Look whay Reagan did with the air traffic controllers - that worked well and the UNIONS were WRONG. Look at where our country is right now and see where UNIONS have more to do with the problem than any solutions. My father always said - "if you dont like your job, go get another one". Real people can stand for themselves and realize a good thing when they have it!!! My hats off to all you who realize that unions are not all good. Unions were good in the begining 150 years ago but for the last 30-40 years they are just leaches to our wonderfull contry.

Ted Coles


Added: 4 Aug 2009

Tell this guy that New Breed in Everett is hiring inspectors for $12.00 Per Hour and they would be glad to have him.

Robin Kennedy


Added: 4 Aug 2009

In reply to some here, especially Bob, and all the new Boeing employees. Your union is what you make it. Get involved show up at meetings. Demand Change in your union if you see a need for it. You can change your union much easier than you can change a corperation like Boeing. The Boeing of today is not the Boeing of years past. The change was the merger or Boeing being bought out out by McDonald/Douglas. Old Boeing used the name family and tried to mean it, under the Mcdonald leadership, (who ruined Douglas), we had scandals (drydun/sears tanker deal) and a tight fisted investment (or lack of investment) plan that lead to 787 fiasco and lead to our next best bet for CEO (Mulally) to go to Ford after being passed over too many times. Look at lawsuit in wichita with Boeing/Spirit and firing everybody then cherry picking employees and older workers left out. You need a union to stand up for you and for all of you to stand together. These same leaders at Boeing forced not just IAM strikes but also the SPEEA strike of 2000. Bob, so do you enjoy the benefits that your representation gives you? It is much easier to have change in your union that at a board meeting of a corperation. Note too those that say you don't need unions, Look at CEO pay being 33% percent of total pay in USA up from 28% a few years ago, look at loss of medical benefits at corperate run companies with no unions, see on u-tube the Wendell Potter interview on Bill Moyers. Look at that and see if you think you don't need a union contract, with out one any company can take away over night any and all benefits. Keep your union it is your only protection

Joel


Added: 4 Aug 2009

Listen to Raoul, fool! Go ahead and decert if you want, but remember this: You work for Boeing now. Vought charlston is DEAD. For a year or two, it will be a regular honeymoon, then Boeing is going to cook you like frogs, slowly and steadily taking away until you have a fraction of what you started with. If you are so stupid as to trust Boeing, then you deserve what you get. But mind you, NOBODY trusts Boeing, not the dept of defense, The United States Air Force, congress, Wall St, it's investors or it's employees. Eventually you won't either, but it will be too late. Your first extended layoff will leave you wih no layoff benefits, no recall rights, no seniority. If you are a little older, and a little more expensive to keep around, Boeing will drop you like an hot rock and hire a cheaper younger person. You will have no voice, and nobody to look out for you. Your terms of employement today? Don't look for them to be better tomorrow. Don't expect federal discrimination laws to save you. Boeing's legal firms stand ready to fight you for years, spending whatever it takes to beat you down. Because remember this: You aren't human beings to Boeing. You are just another expense. One to be cut wherever, and however possible. The people in those commercials are all actors. When your work becomes a plausible target for outsourcing to china, malaysia, or some third world backwater, it's gone, and there will be NOBODY to oppose it. Just like you lost your textiles industry overseas, you Boeing jobs are in just as much jeopardy. If you want to keep that job you are going to have to fight for it. And without solidarity, you will be crushed. Raoul

Mike


Added: 4 Aug 2009

Just listen to all these bitter union types. It's no wonder Boeing wants to get out of WA.

Tom


Added: 5 Aug 2009

WHAT WOULD YOU DO??????? For all you Seattle Boeing people who feel the need to speak when you have no clue about the facts let me ask you this question: If your union that you so admire and adore hand picked 24 people that they knew were mindless fops and told them the only way they were guaranteed that Boeing would not leave was to vote for a contract that would stop your right to strike, cut your pay, cut your benefits and guarantee no raises and they voted YES what would you do? And understand, per the union and the labor laws this is totally legal. As long as the majority of the people who show for the vote are in favor it is a legal and binding contract. You would now be sadled with the same thing the workers at Boeing Charleston have. Except the union here only had to find 12 MINDLESS idiots to say we want our pay cut, we want our benefits cut and we don't need or want raises. WHAT WOULD YOU DO????? Would you still be singing the praises of your union then???? The people in Charleston never said they were anti union, they were excluded from any information, they were kept in the dark and never had a chance to attend the meeting that they never knew anything about. And as far as going to the union for ANYTHING that is the biggest joke. There are not even enough people to have a vote for officers. Charlestonians are not stupid people, well 12 are but that is beside the point. They also don't like getting screwed with no feeling which is exactly what happened. The union only saw a chance to make money and that is all. If it had been a good contract there would have been no need to be so secretive. They needed to be fair and up front instead of going behind the majorities back and excluding everyone.

Pat


Added: 5 Aug 2009

This isn't about people's political views on unions or big corporations. It's just not. What it comes down to is saving 75,000 good-paying jobs in Washington state. Can you imagine Washington if Boeing relocated the 787 line and then eventually got its way out of the state entirely? Think of the heartache and economic decay that would hit our state's working families. And think about the hit to our state's biggest industry and economic engine. This is why the union and company must come together, and why all of us have just as much stake in this game as them.

Gary Bradshaw


Added: 6 Aug 2009

Pat, reread the comment. He is saying stay away from the union. That is why Boeing is looking at Charleston in the first place, right to work state.

judy


Added: 11 Aug 2009

A link was sent to me in my Boeing Email leading me to this article and the following conversation. I know all of the benfits I enjoy are because of the solidarity of my Union Brothers and Sisters. We are the IAM. "Workers represented by the Machinists union in Washington walked off the job late last year for two months. Labor strife has cost the Chicago-headquartered company tens of millions and is among chief causes of delays in the testing and delivery schedule of the Dreamliner. The same union has represented workers in North Charleston for the last two years." Molly Parker your not much a reporter if you actually believe those lines you wrote. I would ask you to research your topics more thoroughly in the future. The 7late7 was 1.5 years behind schedule when we went on strike last year. How can a 2 month work stopage after the fact be resposible? Im guessing your paper is hoping to get some Boeing advertisment money into its coffers. To J from Vaught. Yes Boeing will in fact hire poeple who worked at 7/11, Burgerking, TacoTime where ever. Ive seen it in the new hires we have here in the Everett site. Boeing believes it can train anyone to build aircraft. In a short minded way they are right. Anyone can do what I do, however, those people will never do it as well, as fast and with the quality level I install in all of my jobs, without training from people who have been doing that work for years. Of all the american companies building large comercial aircraft how many are left? Boeing and only Boeing. What SPEEA designs the IAM 751 builds, and it the best in the world and has been for 75 years. I wish you all at the new Boeing site the best of luck, you people are in for a rude awakening. I think what the IAM did was right, however they should have told you all about it before hand. What they knew and Im guessing you didnt is that Boeing would have had to have negotiated a new contract with its new employees in SC. They preserved your jobs knowing the rest could be fought for at the barganing table. Doug 777 FBJ Everett Washington

Doug


Added: 11 Aug 2009

What do you think Boeing and the union have been doing in Seattle for the last 3 contracts??? most of the Boeing workers in Seattle dont think Boeing will even be in the Seattle area in the next 6-10 yrs. so we do feel your pain.

Betty


Added: 11 Aug 2009

It's Funny that Boeing Blames the Union Employees for a Strike.They kept saying how they (Boeing)was losing 100 million dollars a day due to the Srike.Maybe I am no Financial Wizard,but Wouldn't it have saved them Money by signing a Reasonable Contract,instead of blaming the Union.We all knew that Boeing was running behind on the 787,prior to the Strike.They were actually hoping we would Strike.That way the Suppliers,due to outsourcing,had time to get the parts and sections into Boeing,they were running behind.The only thing I can say about Boeing moving some operations to South Carolina,they are looking for Cheaper Labor.If You reject the Union,You will Lose,Boeing will Win and dictate Your Wages.The Union has always been blamed for the Strikes,fact is Boeing used this time to do Catch Up when running behind.Better Think before You throw the Union Out,You will definately be the Loser.

Retired from Boeing


Added: 13 Aug 2009

Before unions were developed we had poor working conditions, managers were allowed to hit their employees, people worked 12 hours a day 7 days a week without overtime pay, people were unfairly fired from their jobs, unsafe working conditions , on and on... The unions help us with safer working conditions, fair wages, and overtime compensation. Those who came before us fought and died for the rights we have today. They had to fight the corruption in the unions also! If we don't stick together and fight together we will become slaves. That would be true capitalism at it's best. Is that what you want? If not, better join a union!! Cathy in Everett

Cathy