NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Boeing Co <BA.N> handily defeated a union drive by workers at the company’s aircraft factory in South Carolina on Wednesday, as almost three-quarters of workers at the plant who voted rejected union representation.
The secret ballot vote, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) at polling locations throughout the North Charleston plant, was the first for Boeing and a high-profile test for organized labor in the nation’s most strongly anti-union state.
Boeing said in Facebook post that 74 percent of the 2,828 workers who cast ballots voted against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).
“We will continue to move forward as one team,” Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president in charge of Boeing South Carolina, said in the post.
In a statement, IAM lead organizer Mike Evans said: “We’re disappointed the workers at Boeing South Carolina will not yet have the opportunity to see all the benefits that come with union representation.”
The results come just before U.S. President Donald Trump is due to visit Boeing in South Carolina on Friday, as the company rolls out the first completed 787-10, the largest version of its Dreamliner.
The world’s largest planemaker ran a hardball campaign against the IAM, which has been trying to organize about 3,000 workers at one of two plants where Boeing makes 787 Dreamliners. The other, in Washington state, has long been unionized by the IAM.
Opposition is strong in South Carolina, which is one of 28 states that bar unions from requiring workers to join up as a condition of employment, and has the lowest proportion of union workers, at 1.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York is highest with 23.6 percent.
The IAM canceled a vote at the Boeing plant in April 2015, claiming political interference from state officials. Former Governor Nikki Haley, who is now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was among those who voiced strong opposition to the union in 2015.
Boeing says the union is not needed because it is a divisive force that picks fights with management, makes promises it cannot keep and leads workers out on costly strikes.
The Chicago-based company produced videos that aired heavily on local TV stations and were also shown in break rooms at the plant, mechanic Elliott Slater, 57, who supports the union, told Reuters in an interview.
Boeing invested $750 million to build the South Carolina factory after a costly machinists strike in 2008 that shut down production in Washington. It spent $1 billion more to expand aircraft engine casing and interiors production. Its employment in the state peaked at 8,400 in 2014 and has since fallen by 10 percent.
The South Carolina plant helps build the 787-8 and larger 787-9, and exclusively builds the 787-10 “stretch” version.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod and Alwyn Scott; Editing by Bill Rigby)