St. Louis union chief backtracks after comments on Boeing, Seattle

St. Louis Post-DispatchDecember 6, 2013 

ST. LOUIS — The president of Boeing’s St. Louis Machinists union is now walking back statements he made to a Seattle radio station Wednesday in which he said the 777X should be built in Washington.

In a statement Thursday morning, Gordon King, president of the International Association of Machinists District 837, said his members are “prepared and ready to sit down with Boeing Company to discuss the details of a contract for work on the 777X aircraft here in St. Louis.”

King also said the union appreciates the efforts of Gov. Jay Nixon, state and federal lawmakers and the local business community “to mount the unprecedented campaign to bring this new plane to St. Louis.”

And with that, King declared a “media blackout,” saying it serves no one’s interests to negotiate a potential contract through the press.

It’s a sharp turn from an interview King gave to KPLU public radio in Tacoma that aired late Wednesday, in which he said that if Boeing offered St. Louis machinists a deal similar to what it proposed in Seattle, he wouldn’t even bring it up for a vote. And that, in his opinion, the work should stay in Seattle.

“My brothers and sisters in Seattle are best qualified to perform that work,” he told KPLU.

The back-and-forth comes amid a lightning-fast effort in the Missouri legislature to approve $150 million-per-year in new tax credits to help land Boeing’s plant, which could create 8,000 jobs. The bill was passed by the Senate on Wednesday and is on track for a vote in the House before the end of the week.

The aerospace giant is only looking for a new site because its Puget Sound-area Machinists union voted down a tough new contract. But Nixon and Missouri labor leaders have said District 837 of the IAM would be more amenable to a deal.

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