UNION GAINS SOUTHERN FOOTHOLD
When Boeing technicians voted 104-65 for representation by the machinist union in Charleston on May 31, 2018, it had some significance. First, this was an unusual victory for unions in South Carolina. Second, the victory directly raised the controversial issue of "micro-units" in union representation elections.
Boeing has a major facility in Charleston, South Carolina, and just a year ago union representation was rejected by 74% of the workers in a union recognition election. The machinist union continued organizing at the facility and was able to get the NLRB to conduct an election in a "micro-unit" of technicians, rather than the entire group of production workers at the facility. Employers have long attempted to avoid allowing a union to "carve up" a facility into small voting units in which the unions can win an election, contending that votes should only be held in larger collective bargaining groups. The NLRB ruled during the Obama-Era that such "micro-units" were generally allowed. But in December 2017, a new NLRB majority overruled that doctrine and reverted to the traditional bargaining units of larger groups.
Boeing has asked the NLRB to review the bargaining unit issue and contended that the group was "artificially gerrymandered" to gain support for union representation. South Carolina has the national’s lowest private sector percentage of union members at 1.7%.