Key Boeing factory goes non-union

Even as unions revel in their access to political power with Barack Obama, actual workers handed the union movement a stinging defeat. Watch for a political reaction to this news, from Dominic Gates of the Seattle Times:

Workers at Boeing's 787 fuselage assembly plant in Charleston, S.C. have decisively voted to get rid of the Machinists union as their bargaining representative with the company. The vote was 199 for decertification of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union against 68 for retaining it.

The vote means that Boeing Charleston becomes a non-union plant. It will compete with Boeing Everett, an IAM stronghold, to be the site of a second 787 Dreamliner assembly line. A decision on that site selection is expected by year end.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said the company is pleased with the outcome. "Boeing Charleston can now move forward to focus on excellence and meeting commitments on the 787 program," Healy said in a statement.

The vote ends the IAM's role in Charleston a little less than two years after workers there voted to accept the union when it was run by 787 supplier Vought Aircraft.

Given the fierce competition in the global airliner market, it would not in the least surprise me if Boeing opened a second 787 assembly line in Charleston, where labor costs (and several other factor costs, including taxes) will be considerably lower than in the Puget Sound region, one of the pricier locales in America.

One final assembly is located in South Carolina, the pressure on the IAM -- which has not hesitated to strike against Boeing in the past -- will be considerable. Sooner or later, Boeing will retire the 737, the 747, and even the 777 models, and replace them with aircraft utilizing the carbon fiber fuselage technology being pioneered by the 787. (Note: this assumes Boeing is able to master the difficult new technologies of the 787 approach, with which it has had considerable problems, causing delays in the launch of the 787. There is little reason to suspect that it won't be able to get past these teething issues.)

In effect, the Seattle locations will have to bid against the South Carolina workforce, once final assembly is located in two different regions of the county. Boeing has already moved its headquarters out of Seattle, demonstrating  to all in Washington State that history alone will not keep the company there.

If nothing else, this move will increase pressure on the Democrats to ram through the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act, which will end the secret ballot for union elections. The Boeing blue collar work union work force has been one of the highest paid in the country. The prospect of losing the cream of what remains of the union manufacturing workforce (along with the vastly diminished UAW ranks) has got to scare the labor bosses. They will retaliate, I am certain. And they will use their political clout to do so.

Keep your eyes on this one.