The labor movement said “thank you” and “goodbye” to a businessman who not only “walks the walk and talks the talk,” but understands and appreciates the value of good labor-management relationships and the quality of work of skilled union tradesmen.
That’s the way St. Louis Labor Council President Bob Soutier described George Roman, vice president, State and Local Government Operations for the Boeing Company nationwide. Roman, headquartered here in St. Louis, will retire Dec. 31 after a 33-year career in the aviation business that started in 1980 with the old McDonnell Douglas Aircraft.
“He will be missed,” Soutier said as he introduced Roman as the guest speaker for the council’s monthly Union Representatives Luncheon meeting.
To make the point about the quality of the union workers that build the finest aircraft in the world, Roman told the story of company district directors and congressional staffers visiting Boeing’s headquarters here. After touring the plant, they went on the flightline and met with several veteran test pilots.
When they started complimenting the pilots, Roman made the point to them that the real heroes were the union machinists who built those aircraft so that the pilots could trust that their airplanes would perform as promised.
As an aside, Roman complimented Mike Kelley, president of the Kelley Group here, for developing and helping Boeing implement a national political strategy that kept funding for the F-18 fighter and C-17 transport flowing when there was a push to drastically cut the defense budget several years ago. “That meant a lot of jobs here in St. Louis.”
And he noted that fight will continue as the proposed Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), built by Lockheed Martin, threatens to shut down the F-18 production line here as the government wants to save money to help fund the JSF contract that is $85 billion behind cost estimates and 900 planes behind a delivery scheduled that was support to start in 2010.
“We’re looking at ways to keep the F-18 production going because it’s the best fighter in the world and is used all over the world.”
“I’ll be around if you need me,” he ended. The luncheon group gave Roman a standing ovation.
In addition to managing Boeing’s State and Local Government Operations organization nationwide, integrating its efforts with legislative and business initiatives. He also manages Global Corporate Citizenship efforts for Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes (BCA) and Defense, Space & Security (BDS) business units.