The largest organized labor union within Boeing has filed with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a labor union organizing vote within the aerospace producer’s North Charleston South Carolina production facility. The move comes after a number of workers at this facility signed authorization cards indicating interest in

Boeing 787 first ship from South Carolina facility

Source: Boeing Website

being unionized.

The North Charleston South Carolina production facility was established as a secondary production and final assembly facility for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.  Six years ago, among selection criteria for this plant was its existence in the Southern region of the U.S., a predominant non-union regional environment. According to business media reports, the plant has struggled to meet increasing production volume requirements and that seems to be the point of contention among existing workers seeking to be organized. First customer ship of a 787 originating from the Charleston facility occurred in July 2012.

This particular facility has been a flash point concerning Boeing’s dealings with its primary labor union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and this latest development will most likely add to ongoing tensions. There have been prior reported and rumored efforts to organize workers at this facility since it was opened.

Prior to the current filing, Boeing had already initiated efforts to dissuade employees from seeking union representation. Reports indicate that in January, Boeing assigned manufacturing executive Beverly Wyse to take over for a retiring executive whom workers and union organizers claim were the root of alleged grievances. According to The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Wyse, who previously managed the 737 manufacturing program in Renton Washington has had a better relationship with organized labor at that facility.

It is unclear at this point as to how the NLRB will rule on the outstanding petition and possibly call for an election process among workers. Local political leaders, including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley have already spoken out against unionization.

The facility has proven to be a flash point for Boeing and the IAM. In 2011, the NLRB ruled that the plant selection was retaliation for a two-month strike conducted by organized workers among Boeing’s Seattle production sites. That NLRB action resulted in Boeing and the union eventually coming to terms to keep production of single-aisle commercial aircraft contiguous to the Renton Washington facilities.

Boeing is in the process of organizing a far reaching social-media based campaign that includes a special web site, a dedicated Facebook page and other outlets to express its views regarding union organizing efforts. The IAM will continue to be active as well.

This development adds further tensions to Boeing’s ongoing efforts to ramp-up monthly production volumes for the 787 Dreamliner and will warrant further monitoring.