More heat for Boeing from both Washingtons on union firings

All seven Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington state have written Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Robert Martinez Jr., President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), seeking more information about reports of the aerospace company firing union supporters at its South Carolina manufacturing plant and expressing the U.S. representatives’ dissatisfaction with Boeing’s refusal to negotiate with its employees who have voted to form a union there.

“We have seen firsthand the benefits of a unionized workforce. Unions make the workforce stronger, the workplace safer, and the work itself more efficient. IAMAW has played a crucial role in Boeing’s achievement and will be integral in its continued success,” reads the lettersigned by U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith and Denny Heck.

Flight-readiness technicians and inspectors at Boeing’s factory in North Charleston, S.C., voted overwhelmingly in favor of forming a union with the IAMAW on May 31, 2018. However, Boeing has refused to recognize the union or bargain with those workers for fair pay and a safer workplace.

According to reports, three of the six inspectors that Boeing fired late last year, all of whom were known union supporters, were accused by the company of missing a bird strike that caused engine damage. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) subsequently supported that fired workers’ claims that there was no such bird strike. Under the National Labor Relations Act, it is illegal to fire workers for union activity.

Two weeks ago, more than 70 members of Congress wrote Muilenburg seeking similar information about the firings and refusal to bargain with IAMAW. That letter noted that it appeared that Boeing may have wielded its authority as a “self-regulator” to improperly dismiss the three inspection employees.

The letter sent June 3 from Washington’s congressional delegation reads:

Dear Mr. Muilenburg and Mr. Martinez, Jr.:

We understand that a group of workers at Boeing’s South Carolina facility voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (lAMAW) nearly a year ago. Many of us have previously written to encourage Boeing and lAMAW to respect the decision of those workers who advocated and voted in favor of unionization.

We are aware that six Boeing workers at the South Carolina facility, each of whom reportedly supported unionization, were discharged in late 2018. We are compelled to express our dissatisfaction with the explanations used to justify these employees’ termination and for the lack of progress in bargaining between Boeing and the lAMAW.

It is our understanding that three of the six dismissed employees were discharged for missing a bird strike on an airplane engine in a post-flight inspection. However, according to public record, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigated this matter and found that there was no engine damage and no indication of a bird ingestion consistent with a bird strike that would render the aircraft unairworthy.

We share our constituents ‘ concern about this discrepancy, and it is on their behalf that we request that the Boeing Company provide answers to following questions:

●  How can the company account for the discrepancy between its own findings regarding the alleged bird strike incident that led to the termination of three Boeing employees and those of the FAA, which did not substantiate this incident?

●  How was the decision to terminate these employees made, and was that decision reconsidered following the FAA’s subsequent investigation?

●  Did the terminated employees have an opportunity to appeal their dismissal following the FAA’s investigation?

●  What steps is the company taking to ensure timely recognition of unions that workers elect to form at Boeing facilities?

We have seen firsthand the benefits of a unionized workforce. Unions make the workforce stronger, the workplace safer, and the work itself more efficient. IAMAW has played a crucial role in Boeing’s achievement and will be integral in its continued success. We encourage Boeing and the lAMAW to continue good-faith negotiations and resolve this matter.

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