Brown: Union Representation Would Help Address Safety Concerns at SC Boeing Plant

Senator Urges Boeing to Accept Union Card Check Neutrality for Boeing Employees – Company’s Practice of Ignoring Safety Concerns while Intimidating, Harassing and even Terminating Workers who Raise Production Quality Concerns has Led to Safety Concerns

WASHINGTON, DC – This weekend, a New York Times report found that Boeing pushed its workforce to quickly turn out Dreamliners while ignoring safety issues raised by employees and, at times, harassed, intimidated and even fired those employees who raised production quality concerns. Following this report, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today said union representation is necessary to change Boeing’s corporate culture, and the company should accept union card check neutrality for the employees at the North Charleston plant as part of efforts to improve product safety. 

“Your employees are critical to producing high-quality, safe planes, and they should be included in decisions regarding production quality and timing,” Brown wrote in his letter. “Union representation would facilitate a productive exchange between workers and management and would ensure workers are protected from retaliation when they raise concerns about the production process.”

Brown has been urging Boeing to address its company culture that allows for the intimidation, harassment, and even termination of employees who exercise their federally protected right to join a union. In June of last year, Boeing flight readiness technicians in North Charleston, South Carolina elected to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), and proceeded to select representatives to ensure their voices are heard at the negotiating table. However, Boeing continued to challenge this election and instead pursued a campaign of intimidation against the flight readiness technicians. In fact, six of the technicians were terminated at the plant. Brown urged Boeing to drop these tactics, reinstate the six terminated workers, recognize their chosen representative in the IAMAW, and begin collective bargaining immediately.

In August 2018, Brown led a group of 23 Senators in urging Boeing to drop its appeal of the election where Boeing flight technicians in North Charleston successfully elected union leadership to represent their interests. In that letter, Brown called Boeing’s attempt to appeal the election and undermine its results an attack on workers’ rights to have their voices heard, and said Boeing should instead immediately begin its contract negotiations with workers through their elected representation.

 

A copy of Brown’s letter to Boeing appears below and HERE:

Dennis Muilenburg

Chairman, President and CEO

The Boeing Company

100 North Riverside

Chicago, Illinois 60606 

Dear Mr. Muilenberg: 

I read with great concern The New York Times’ recent reporting on safety concerns in the 787 Dreamliner production line.  I was particularly troubled by the company’s repeated practice of ignoring, harassing, or firing employees who raised safety issues during production.  Unions play an important role in facilitating employee-management collaboration and adherence to high-quality production standards, which would help to address the shortcomings in the Dreamliner production.  As part of your company’s efforts to improve the lacking oversight and production quality that have affected the Dreamliner, I urge you to accept card check neutrality for the Boeing employees at the North Charleston plant.  

According to the Times’ investigation, Boeing is well aware of inadequate safety standards at the North Charleston plant.  At least one former customer stopped purchasing Dreamliners made at the South Carolina facility.  In addition, multiple Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigations found “improper tool control,” “the presence of foreign object or debris,” and instances in which the company had lost damaged parts at the plant.   In every case, the FAA’s findings corroborated safety concerns raised by employees.  

I am concerned that Boeing has not responded appropriately to this evidence that the commitment to safety must be strengthened at the North Charleston plant.  Instead of creating a corporate culture where potential safety violations must be reported quickly and processed carefully, multiple former plant employees said they were intimidated, harassed, ignored, or even terminated for raising production quality concerns. Instead of slowing production down to ensure workers have adequate time to meet manufacturing standards, the Times reports that Boeing is speeding up the production schedule to 14 Dreamliners a month and is terminating approximately 100 quality control jobs at the North Charleston facility.  

I urge Boeing to reconsider your approach to these quality control and safety lapses.  Your employees are critical to producing high-quality, safe planes, and they should be included in decisions regarding production quality and timing.   Union representation would facilitate a productive exchange between workers and management and would ensure workers are protected from retaliation when they raise concerns about the production process.  Your company is well-acquainted with the production quality benefits of a union-represented workforce at your Washington facilities.  I urge you to adopt card check neutrality for all workers at the South Carolina plant as part of your response to the Dreamliners safety concerns. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

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