By TIM ROWDEN
Just as they did with the effort to lure manufacture of Boeing’s 777X commercial aircraft to St. Louis – a proposal last year in which St. Louis placed second in the nation – area building trades unions have agreed to forgo overtime pay during round-the-clock construction of a football stadium proposed on the St. Louis riverfront.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced the agreement in a hastily arranged press conference at the offices of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council.
“Missouri workers have always been the driving force behind our economic growth, because they show up early, stay late and get the job done,” Nixon said.
“This project is about more than football and franchises, it’s about revitalizing a distressed area, creating jobs and expanding economic opportunities for workers and families across the region.”
The redevelopment proposal, announced in January, calls for an open-air, 64,000-seat stadium on a 90-plus acre site on the north edge of downtown.
The agreement, reached with the Building & Construction Trades Council, Eastern Missouri Laborers’ District Council and Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis, calls for three eight-hour shifts, at straight time, a deal which will speed up construction while reducing overtime on the up-to-$985 million stadium.
Joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and flanked by union leaders during the Feb. 18 press conference, Nixon said agreement would reduce the project cost by about $45 million while shaving about 44 weeks off the construction timeline.
3.4 MILLION WORK HOURS
The project would provide work for an estimated 1,500 union workers per day at peak construction and result in about 3.4 million work hours.
“We are very fortunate in St. Louis to have a very, very strong labor community,” Mayor Slay said. “This would not happen without Labor in the City of St. Louis.”
Slay had special praise for Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the Building & Construction Trades Council, for putting Labor’s half of the agreement together.
“Jeff gets it,” Slay said. “And he knows how to get things done.”
Nixon, too, had praise for Labor’s involvement in the proposal.
“The workers of the region saw the progress that we’re making here, saw the opportunity and came to us and said ‘What can we do to help?’ ” Nixon said.
“From manufacturing next-generation aircraft to redeveloping neighborhoods, this commitment from St. Louis-area labor groups demonstrates once again how Missouri’s skilled, experienced and organized workforce gives us a tremendous
competitive advantage,” Nixon said.
FAMILY SUPPORTING WAGES
Aboussie said the St. Louis building trades and construction unions are well positioned to bring the stadium project to fruition.
“You can’t do these things without capacity,” Aboussie said. “And right now we have the capacity in the building trades of the most talented men and women with the best training and the capacity of our contractors.
“This is one component in a big development in our city that will pay hundreds of millions in good, family supporting wages.”
The stadium project would be built just feet from the Mississippi River downtown, and would include a floating riverfront trail, boat docks, acres of parking, the possibility of accommodating a Major League Soccer team — and no new taxes.
Proposed financing for the project, which was announced in January, would include: $200 million from the National Football League, $250 million more from Rams owner Stan Kroenke, $130 million from the sale of personal seat licenses to fans, tax credits and an extension of the bonds that are being used to pay down debt on the Edward Jones Dome, where the Rams now play.
“This is a transformational opportunity and I could not be happier with the progress we’re making and the men and women of Organized Labor who have stepped up to make this possible,” Nixon said.
Coming amidst this year’s ongoing assault against working families in the State Legislature, with efforts to pass right-to-work, paycheck deception and attacks on the prevailing wage, Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said the agreement shines a light on the folly of legislators’ efforts to attack workers in the name of economic development.
“This opportunity shows that Labor and contractors and all kinds of different businesses can work together, and we don’t need forced laws telling us what we can negotiate in our contracts,” Louis said.
Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council said the proposal had the potential to create good jobs not just for the building trade unions, but also for workers in hotels, restaurants and all of the affiliated businesses that would benefit from a new stadium.
“I think people need to look past the construction and think about what this is going to do for the entire region,” White said.