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Organizers Stepping Up Efforts To Unionize Boeing SC
4/1/2015 5:16:12 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Over the past several weeks Charleston activist Lee Moultrie has served as a facilitator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union as it prepares for the April 22 Boeing S.C. vote whether to unionize employees.

Moultrie whose company, Lee Moultrie & Associates LLC advocates for a variety of community based initiatives, has traversed the local region introducing union officials to members of the community including clergymen and others who officials feel can take their message to their respective constituents. Moultrie said he accepted the task because he feels there is a need for a great company like Boeing SC which has great employees to have a representative entity to speak on behalf of workers.

South Carolina is a ‘right to work’ state meaning workers do not have to be unionized. Gov. Nikki Haley has vehemently opposed efforts to unionize Boeing employees. Since 2009 Boeing has produced its 787 Dreamliner aircraft at the company’s 265-acre main campus near the Charleston International Airport. Boeing supports some 7,500 direct and indirect jobs. About 85 percent of its employees are local residents.

The company’s invested over $1 billion in land, infrastructure, facilities and tooling in South Carolina since 2009 and is committed to creating another 2,000 new jobs and investing in excess of another $1 billion during the next eight years. An independent study projects Boeing will have an economic impact on Charleston and surrounding areas of about $6 billion annually.

IAMAW organizer Mike Evans said Boeing has some 3,000 employees eligible to vote in the election. He thinks, despite Boeing’s aggressive campaign against unionizing, it’s in workers’ best interest to unionize.

While Boeing employees earn some of the local region’s top wages in the manufacturing industry, local wages fall substantially below that of workers at Boeing sites in other parts of the country.

“It’s about wages,” Evans said frankly. “Everyone wants Boeing to be successful in South Carolina. And while wages here may be in the top tier for the manufacturing industry there’s no reason why there’s such a drastic difference between wages here and other sites. Wages here are at the lower end of the scale,” he said. “We’re just looking for consistency.”

Boeing Communications Manager Candy Eslinger said the April 22 vote will affect the community and manufacturing in South Carolina. Boeing is encouraging every one eligible to vote to exercise that right.

“We’ve said for the past five years we don’t believe a union is in the best interest of our teammates, business, community or state,” she said.

But in 2012 a Boeing employee came to The Chronicle alleging he routinely was subjected to discriminatory remarks from other employees and supervisors and that Black employees also were discriminated against in promotions.

And a Columbia attorney filed a third lawsuit against the company on behalf of employees charging discrimination at the North Charleston plant. Charleston Sen. Robert Ford at the time said he had received complaints from employees who also charged they were being discriminated against.

Evans said there’s no reason Boeing employees in South Carolina should not be protected.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union is preparing for the April 22 vote whether to unionize South Carolina employees at Boeing.

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