Feb. 21--The union that represents thousands of Boeing Co. workers in the Pacific Northwest is still looking to make inroads at the company's North Charleston jet-making operation.
Frank Larkin, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, told Tacoma, Wash., radio station KPLU-FM this week that the organizing effort at Boeing South Carolina remains in the early stages.
The IAM hasn't started gathering signed cards from workers willing to join the union, he said.
"We continue to maintain contact with a lot of employees inside the facility who would like to be represented," Larkin said in a report posted on KPLU's website Thursday. "They understand there's an anti-union atmosphere in the state, but that doesn't stay the same indefinitely."
Labor activity in the South has re-emerged as a national issue amid last week's closely watched vote at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, where employees rejected an organizing effort by the United Automobile Workers.
Boeing and its machinists union have crossed paths in South Carolina for years.
When the aerospace giant bought its North Charleston fuselage plant from a supplier in 2009, some of the workers were represented by the IAM. The local membership voted to cut its union ties that same year.
Less than two months later, Boeing picked Charleston International Airport as the site for a 787 final assembly plant. The IAM has been looking to recruit the workforce ever since.
The union also complained to the National Labor Relations Board that Boeing built the South Carolina plant in retaliation for past strikes in Washington state. The agency filed a lawsuit on the union's behalf in 2011, but the high-profile case was eventually settled.
Boeing employs more than 6,500 workers in North Charleston, where it makes parts for and assembles the Dreamliner.
The local labor organizing efforts got the attention of management in May, when Boeing South Carolina's top executive sent an email to employees under the heading: "The IAM is back, and they want your money."
The company said Thursday its position hasn't changed.
"As we've said over the past four years, we want to work directly with our employees and we're continuously working on keeping Boeing South Carolina a place where teammates have a voice and can speak for themselves without having to rely on a third party to speak for them," spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said in statement. "We're very proud of what our teammates have accomplished here in South Carolina by collaborating and working together, and we don't believe a union is in the best interest of our teammates, our business, our community nor our state."
Contact John McDermott at 937-5572
Copyright 2014 - The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
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