COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA)—Workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant voted Wednesday overwhelmingly against joining a union, which could attract more jobs to the state. University of South Carolina law professor Joseph Seiner, an expert on labor law, says, “Some would argue that it means an increased ability to attract outside companies, companies that look around, they see BMW, they see Boeing, they see Michelin, none of them are organized down here, might entice a lot of companies to come down here if they believe that they can operate more cheaply, more efficiently without organized labor.”
About 2,800 of the 3,000 workers at Boeing’s plant voted and 74 percent rejected the effort by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to represent them. The union argues that their workers get paid more and that the union looks out for their interests.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly salary for a union worker nationwide is $1,004, while it’s $802 for a non-union worker. So why would workers reject a union?
Seiner says, “They think it’ll eat up their pay, first off. You never know when dues are going to be increased. And also that the union will make it difficult to deal with the employer and the employer might, ultimately like they did, like Boeing did in Seattle, just up and move to another state and their job is gone.”
Nationwide, 10.7 percent of workers belong to unions. South Carolina has the lowest union membership rate in the nation at just 1.6 percent. Seiner says it’s hard for unions to get into the state because South Carolina is a right-to-work state.
“What that means is workers here can opt, even if a union is organized, to not be in that union and say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be a member of that’ and still attain the same benefits of the union. So it makes us less of an attractive target for unions if they think they might not get the union dues and still have to represent workers,” he says.