State lawmakers approve $1.7 billion incentive package
By TIM ROWDEN
St. Louis labor unions have committed to a 24-hour, five-day a week, no-overtime work schedule if Boeing selects St. Louis for production of its new 777X commercial jetliner.
The commitment was signed onto by the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, the Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council and the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis as part of an incentive package put together by state lawmakers with the commitment of local labor and business leaders to lure manufacture of the commercial plane to Missouri.
The aggressive work schedule would double the number of work hours each week, triple the committed workforce, and reduce the construction time by at least a year.
Boeing, which has $130 billion worth of orders for the airplane, must begin deliveries in 2020.
Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council said the letter of commitment doesn’t represent any kind of concession.
“We already have shift work,” Aboussie said. “We already have eight-hour shifts. You can work three eight-hour shifts five days a week without incurring overtime.”
And, Aboussie said, there are enough available workers in the St. Louis building trades to get the job done in record time without having to bring in workers from outside the area.
“I think with our abundance of available laid-off workers that we can achieve that goal without going outside of our network right here,” he said.
Gary Elliott, business manager for the Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council and president of Laborers Local 110, said the arrangement would be advantageous to Boeing and union workers alike.
“We have in our regular contact eight-hour shifts where you can work three shifts a day. We’re just asking them to take advantage of it,” Elliott said.
“From a man-hours standpoint, if you’ve got people sitting on the bench, you can put more people to work. If I’m working three shifts, I’m putting three times as many people to work as I normally would. Over a three-year period, that’s a pretty good shot in the arm.”
A BIPARTISAN EFFORT
In just five days last week, Missouri lawmakers passed Gov. Jay Nixon's plan to provide up to $1.7 billion in tax incentives aimed at landing production of the plane.
The proposed incentives are dependent on the creation of thousands of new jobs.
The incentives will be offered under the Missouri Works Program, the BUILD program, the Missouri Works Training Program, and the TIF act.
Boeing already employs about 15,000 people in Missouri and makes military aircraft at its plant by Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
Missouri's incentives would grow based on the number of new jobs Boeing would bring to Missouri for the commercial airplane.
If Boeing picked Missouri for the 777X's wing fabrication and assembly facility, it would create about 2,000 jobs. If Missouri landed the wing fabrication and assembly, body assembly and final assembly and delivery facilities, it would create about 8,000 new jobs.
“This is a big deal,” Aboussie said. “This really shows what happens when labor and our government officials and everybody works together. This was a great display of partnering this past week.”
Nixon said creating good jobs for Missouri families was a priority for his administration.
"That is exactly what this bipartisan bill will help us do," Nixon said in a statement on the Governor’s website. "Production of the Boeing 777X would create thousands of high-paying jobs, generate billions of dollars in investment and spur economic growth in every corner of our state.”
MACHINISTS ‘PREPARED AND READY’
Missouri is one of more than a dozen states that received invitations from Boeing to bid on production of the next-generation 777X after Machinists union members in Washington State rejected a proposed contract that sought concessions on pensions and health care costs.
Gordon King, president of Machinists District 837, which represents Boeing workers in St. Louis, said that his members were "prepared and ready” to negotiate with Boeing over a future contract for the commercial plane production. King also said he appreciated the efforts of Nixon, state and federal lawmakers and the local business community "to mount the unprecedented campaign to bring this new plane to St. Louis."
Bob Soutier, president of the St. Louis Labor Council and a Machinist by trade, said it was Boeing’s decision to put the 777X manufacturing facility out for bid.
“They’ve made it clear that they’re going to build all of that plane or parts of the plane somewhere else,” Soutier said. “We’re in a position in Missouri to bid on it,
and we have a governor who stepped up to the plate.”