The US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has overturned a previous decision allowing a unit of 178 mechanics and inspectors at Boeing’s South Carolina plant to unionize with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

In May 2018, an NLRB regional director issued a decision that found the petitioned-for unit was appropriate under NLRB standards. An election to the IAM took place shortly after, with the workers voting in favor of joining. Boeing appealed that decision, arguing the unit of 178 flight line mechanics and inspectors was illegitimate and represented an illegal “micro-unit.”

The NLRB—currently a Republican majority four-member panel (with an additional vacancy)—concurred in a Sept. 9 decision, reasoning that the mechanics do not share a “community of interest,” meaning their interests were not “sufficiently distinct” from the other 2,700 employees at the company’s North Charleston, South Carolina-based production facility, where Boeing’s 787s are built. The Board’s sole Democratic member dissented.

Boeing 787 program VP Brad Zaback said in a statement, “With the clarity that this NLRB decision brings, we will go forward as one Boeing South Carolina team to work with our teammates directly, to meet tomorrow’s challenges, and continue the site’s great work to build the world’s most advanced airplanes.”

In a statement, the IAM slammed the decision as “irresponsible and reckless,” and vowed to keep pushing an organizing effort at the campus in South Carolina.

“This unprincipled decision from the NLRB’s anti-worker majority board will not stop our organizing campaign at Boeing South Carolina ... we stand with the Flight Line and all workers at Boeing South Carolina and justice will prevail when their voices are recognized,” IAM said.

Ben Goldstein, ben.goldstein@aviationweek.com