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Boeing machinists in South Carolina to vote in February on unionizing

Reuters

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co <BA.N> and its largest union said on Friday they had agreed on a February date for a union vote at Boeing's jetliner factory in South Carolina, setting up what is likely to be a fresh battle between the union and the world's biggest plane maker.

International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers spokesman Mike Evans said in a statement that about 2,850 workers at the factory that builds 787 Dreamliners would be eligible to vote on union representation in the Feb. 15 ballot.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company is "strongly encouraging all eligible teammates, roughly 3,000, to be sure to vote."

The machinists canceled an earlier vote set for April 2015 citing a "a toxic environment" and violations of workers' rights to organize, in the strongly anti-union state.

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At the time, union organizers described the decision as a tactical move, allowing time to build union support. Boeing called the union's allegations of intimidation "frivolous."

South Carolina is a state where employees are not required to join unions or pay dues. It has among the lowest rates of union membership in the United States.

Evans, in the statement, cited fresh "intimidation tactics" against organizing by Boeing.

Boeing said it has hired a lawyer it used when workers tried to unionize in 2015.

"Boeing is applying the appropriate resources to protect the competitive advantage created by the Boeing South Carolina (BSC) team," the company said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)