Support Grows For Boeing South Carolina Workers

Support from the labor community and fellow IAM members is growing for workers at the Boeing plant in North Charleston, SC who took a crucial step toward winning a strong voice on their pay, benefits and working conditions when they filed for an election to determine if they will be represented by the IAM, North America’s largest and most powerful aerospace union.

In the coming months, Boeing South Carolina workers will have the opportunity to join the more than 35,000 Boeing workers nationwide who benefit from a collective bargaining agreement negotiated through the IAM.

Jon Holden, who hired into Boeing’s Everett, WA plant 18 years ago as a parts and tooling expeditor, and is now the President and Directing Business Representative of IAM District 751, says it’s well worth it for Boeing workers in South Carolina to have the Machinists Union by their side.

“We have a unique perspective to know what it is like to work in a Boeing production facility,” said Holden. “We are excited that these hard-working, well-deserving workers in South Carolina will have the opportunity to choose whether or not they want representation with their employer.

“We have raised the standard of living in the communities we live in, simply because we have had the opportunity to bargain our wages, hours and working conditions with Boeing,” said Holden. “We feel strongly that these workers will also benefit themselves and their communities once they have the right to bargain with their employer. We wish them well in gaining rights protected by federal law, which we at District 751 cherish so much.”

Erin McKee, who as president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO represents over 80,000 South Carolina union members, puts it simply: “Being a union member is the best investment I ever made.”

“When you get married, you sign a contract with the person you love and respect more than anyone else in the world,” explains McKee. “And your job is how you support your family that you love. So why would you work without something in writing?”

But what should be a simple decision, to have a voice and stability at work, is clouded by anti-union politicians who are looking out for their own gain, and not for Boeing South Carolina workers.

“The problem in South Carolina is we’re taught from a very young age, even at the churches and schools, that unions are evil,” said Joe Shelley, a boiler operator at KapStone Paper Co. in Charleston and a member of the United Steelworkers (USW). “People have this whole concept that unions have destroyed our middle class. What they’ve forgotten is how the middle class was developed by the unions.”

And unions such as the IAM continue to fight for the middle class. Union workers earn an average of 30 percent more in wages than their non-union counterparts, and have much higher access to benefits like health insurance and retirement plans.

“We’re trying to build a better life for ourselves, our families and our community,” said four-year Boeing South Carolina employee Gerald Guerena. “We feel the best way to do this is with a collective bargaining agreement that allows us to negotiate with the company over wages, benefits, safety procedures and more.”

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