In November of last year, Richard Mester lost his job at a Boeing facility in South Carolina for allegedly failing to report a bird strike. As an Air Force veteran with 30 years’ experience, Mester claims he could not have missed such an obvious issue. Instead, Mester suspects he and two other employees were fired because of their unionization efforts.
While Boeing’s aircraft production plant in Washington is unionized, its South Carolina plant is not. When Boeing opened its South Carolina plant in 2011, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a federal complaint against Boeing for allegedly violating federal labor law by transferring its production facility to South Carolina – a state with one of lowest rates of union membership in the nation – for discriminatory reasons.1 The NLRB dropped its claim when Boeing reached an agreement with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Boeing appeals union vote
Last year, 60% of the flight line workers at the plant voted to unionize, despite heavy campaigning against unionization by Boeing. Now, Boeing is appealing the vote to the NLRB.
The union alleges that Boeing’s appeal and other tactics are meant to slow down the unionization process. Members of the union have expressed concern that, in the meantime, the company could terminate several pro-union employees who might otherwise be protected by a union contract. According to The Guardian, the union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against Boeing, while Boeing has filed a formal appeal of the election results with the NLRB.
Federal labor laws protect unionization efforts
Under the National Labor Relations Act, it is illegal to retaliate against or terminate employees for exercising certain protected activities.2 However, workers at the South Carolina Boeing plant have accused the company of doing just that, claiming that Boeing used other justifications as pretext for undermining unionization.
“They started writing people up for things that were the norm. They’ve targeted union supporters,” one worker told The Guardian. The worker added that after the union vote, the company retaliated against the unionizing workers by increasing their workload, reducing their quality control, and frequently sending them notices of job openings in other parts of the company.
In a statement, Boeing told The Guardian that the terminations were based on violations of long-standing policies and denied any retaliation against workers who voted to unionize.
Resolving disputes often requires expert guidance
Employees and employers alike have rights and obligations under the law. When business owners or employees find themselves facing employment disputes, they benefit from enlisting the help of experienced legal counsel who understands the unique issues involved. To learn more about the rights of business owners and employees in Texas, contact an experienced business and commercial law firm.
1 “Union Members – 2018”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (January 18, 2019), https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/union2.pdf
2 “Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7″ of the Act. For example, you may not…Discharge, constructively discharge, suspend, layoff, fail to recall from layoff, demote, discipline, or take any other adverse action against employees because of their protected, concerted activities.”