Don’t think that Boeing’s new detente with its largest Puget Sound union has ended the controversy over Boeing’s decision three years ago to build a plant in largely nonunion South Carolina.
Three workers from Boeing’s North Charleston, S.C., plant Wednesday filed a federal retaliation charge against that union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The new charge with the National Labor Relations Board contends the union, with 28,000 Puget Sound Boeing members, used its power to bully Boeing into locating its assembly plant for the company’s newest plane, the 737 MAX, at its unionized Renton factory.
The three workers, one of whom was a leader in getting South Carolina Boeing workers to decertify the union there, contended the Machinists used the incentive of its dropping its complaint against Boeing for locating the new 787 Dreamliner assembly line in North Charleston.
“The IAM union bosses’ accusations against Boeing had a chilling effect on Boeing and other companies, deterring them from locating work in South Carolina and other Right to Work states where workers cannot be forced to join or pay fees to a union as a job condition,” the three workers said in a news release.
Union executives were unavailable for comment. Like most union Boeing workers in the Puget Sound area, the union officials were on a holiday break.
Boeing and the Machinists privately negotiated a new four-year labor agreement that gives workers pay raises and incentive awards partly in return for the union dropping its own NLRB complaint against Boeing. Union workers earlier this month ratified that agreement.
The union had alleged Boeing unlawfully retaliated against them for a 2008 strike by siting the new plant in South Carolina where the union had been decertified.
The NLRB had scheduled a trial on that complaint, but dropped the issue after the union said it was rescinding its original complaint.
The three workers filed their complaint Wednesday with the help of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Those workers said that while they welcomed the dropping of the union complaint, they were excluded from what they called the “backroom” negotiations on the issue. The three had been granted intervenor status in the case.
“Workers should be free to choose whether or not to affiliate with a union and not have to worry about their jobs as a result,” said Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie @thenewstribune.com