Earlier this year, Boeing workers in Charleston, South Carolina joined the International Association of Machinists (IAM). Now, several of those workers have been fired.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) thinks the firings are a direct response to the union vote.
“It is alarming that instead of negotiating with the [union], Boeing has instead pursued a campaign of intimidation against the flight readiness technicians,” Sanders wrote in a recent letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg, which was co-signed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “In our view, it is no coincidence that all of the workers who were recently fired openly support the union.”
The workers at Boeing’s plant in North Charleston, South Carolina originally voted to join the IAM in May by a margin of 104-65. That vote came one year after an unsuccessful union vote at the same plant, and was the result of approximately a decade of diligent organizing, according to labor journalist Mike Elk.
However, the letter from Sens. Brown and Sanders alleges that, since that union vote, six flight readiness technicians — all of whom supported the union — were fired over a time span of just 60 days.
“According to the union, terminations of flight readiness technicians are extremely rare. Before the recent terminations, only one had been fired since the plant opened in 2015,” the senators wrote. “In contrast, the recent rash of firings has taken place in a two-month period.”
However, Boeing isn’t just known for firing workers in South Carolina. As Grit Post reported earlier this year, Boeing slashed more than 6,000 jobs in its home state of Washington despite taking more than $200 million in state tax incentives supposedly aimed at enticing Boeing to keep jobs in the state. And according to the Seattle Times, Boeing received more than $6 billion from the state it calls home over the past five years, while simultaneously shedding over 13,000 jobs in a two-year period.
Both Brown and Sanders reminded Boeing in their letter that firing workers as a means of retaliating for unionization is a violation of federal law.
“As you are well aware, it is illegal to harass, intimidate, or terminate workers for exercising their right to collectively bargain,” they wrote. “We know the [National Labor Relations Board] will consider the unfair labor practice charges filed by the union in response to these attacks.
“The flight technicians, however, should not have to wait throughout that process to be reinstated and to collectively bargain.”
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.