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Senators Across the Country Weigh in on a Unionization Fight in South Carolina

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In their bid to unionize, one relatively small group of workers in the South has lately drawn some bigger-name supporters.

Twenty-three senators from 13 states signed a letter on Wednesday urging the Boeing Company to recognize a group of employees in South Carolina who voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) in June. Since then, Boeing has appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that the group's unionization was not legal.

The workers represent just a small sub-section of Boeing South Carolina employees: flight-readiness technicians, numbering fewer than 200, out of Boeing South Carolina's thousands. An effort to unionize nearly all of Boeing's workers in South Carolina had failed in a landslide vote in 2017. "We continue to strongly believe that this micro-unit is prohibited under federal law," Boeing spokesman Victor Scott told the Post and Courier. Meanwhile, Boeing executives will not meet with the technicians' union leader.

"We oppose these efforts to deny these workers their right to union representation," the senators' letter says. The signers are all Democrats and include some of the Senate's big names, such as Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders, of Vermont. All of the senators from Washington State and Oregon signed—the IAM represents Boeing employees in both states, but its bargaining power is weakened by the existence of non-unionized South Carolina workers. None of the signers come from the South, where politicians tend to believe that an anti-union atmosphere helps attract business to the region.