The International Association of Machinists (IAM) once again failed to unionize Boeing’s plant in South Carolina. With a 94 percent turnout rate, Boeing employees overwhelmingly rejected the IAM’s proposal for union representation, as 74 percent of workers voted against it. The final tally was 2,097 out of 2,828 votes against the union.
The devastating loss comes on the heels of the IAM’s failed 2015 campaign, when the union cancelled its own vote to organize the Boeing plant. (All signs pointed to a union loss.) This time, the IAM held a sparsely attended pre-vote rally on February 13th, only to see hundreds of employees reject the union agenda days later.
South Carolina has long embraced workplace freedom. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data, only about 32,000 of the state’s employees are union members—the country’s lowest union membership rate at just 1.6 percent. Other major manufacturers in South Carolina, including BMW and Michelin, are similarly non-unionized and haven’t fallen prey to major union organizing campaigns.
Jonathan Battaglia, an IAM spokesman, blamed the loss on the union’s $20,000 television advertising budget. In Battaglia’s words: “We are only on two stations, and at much less frequency than Boeing.” It’s a pitiful excuse from an organization whose main source of strength is supposed to be grassroots organizing and whipping votes.
Whatever the reason, the IAM has plenty of time for soul-searching. Under current labor law, union officials must wait at least a year after a failed election before holding another vote for union representation.