Production and maintenance workers at the former Vought plant in North Charleston, S.C., won approval today from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to vote to remove the International Association of Machinists (IAM) as their collective bargaining representative. Filed on July 30, the same day Boeing completed its acquisition of the plant for $580 million and the cancellation of certain debt carried by Vought, the petition to decertify the IAM could affect some 280 workers. The agreement to conduct the vote, reached yesterday, calls for the workers to cast their ballots on September 10. The process provides for a seven-day period for filing objections, said NLRB assistant to the regional director Howard Neidig.
A non-unionized workforce in North Charleston could intensify competition against Boeing’s established workforce in Washington’s Puget Sound region for a planned second assembly line for the 787. Boeing has attempted to downplay the possibility, but over the past few months the company has sought to reopen negotiations with the IAM in an effort to gain a no-strike clause from its Puget Sound workforce, which staged a two-month strike last fall. The IAM and the company signed a four-year deal in November, but Boeing has blamed the strike and the threat of future work action for damaging its competitive standing.
The former Vought plant, now known as Boeing Charleston, builds aft fuselage parts for the 787 Dreamliner. Meanwhile, the company continues to work on establishing a timeline for resolving the technical problems that delayed the planned first flight of the 787 in June. The company has said it will announce a new plan by the end of the third quarter, by which time more than two years will have passed since the original target date for first flight.