A union election in the US South is seen as a test case for labour’s ability to organize under Trump.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is heading for a crucial vote in Charleston, South Carolina. On 15 February, almost 3,000 Boeing workers are due to vote on union recognition.
The election is seen as a crucial test case for the union movement’s ability to organize in the Trump era. A successful vote would be a rebuke for Trump’s anti-union policies, and a victory against his divisive racism. About one third of the workers at the plant are African American.
The US South is notoriously hard to organize. Wages and union density are low, collective bargaining cover is sparse, and politicians are often partisan opponents of unions.
South Carolina is a “Right to Work” state, meaning it has adopted law allowing non-union members to benefit from union contracts without contributing to them. The state has the lowest level of unionization in the US.
The IAM, and other US unions, argue that the motive behind Right to Work is to destroy unions and “transfer even more money and power to corporate elites”. US President Donald Trump has signaled that he intends to extend Right to Work to federal level, seen by many as a fundamental assault on unions.
Many companies have shifted production to the South in recent years, to take advantage of low wages and weak unions. After closing a plant in Washington state, Boeing opened the South Carolina plant in 2011. Since then it has produced more than 100 787 Dreamliner planes.
The IAM represents about 35,000 Boeing workers, mostly in Washington state. In 2015, the union withdrew from a recognition election at the Charleston plant after political interference and a massive campaign of disinformation from the company.
IndustriALL aerospace director Brian Kohler said:
“The election of Donald Trump is a challenge and a threat to working people everywhere. A union victory in South Carolina would be a powerful sign that we can fight back.
“IndustriALL sends international solidarity, and urges Boeing workers to vote Yes for a union.”