Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strike Replacement Workers Leave for Uncertain Futures

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strike Replacement Workers Leave for Uncertain Futures

Article excerpt

Six weeks ago, Drew Perez drove to St. Louis from Los Angeles to fill in for one of the 6,700 striking Machinists at McDonnell Douglas Corp.

By today, Perez and more than 2,000 other replacement workers at McDonnell will leave their temporary homes at St. Louis area motels to return home - or to wherever they can find work.

"I just came out here to make money for me and my kids," said Perez, 26, as he got ready to clock in for his final shift Thursday at McDonnell's sprawling aircraft plant north of Lambert Field. "I have to put food on the table. It's better than selling drugs. I'll go back home with some money." The day after members of the International Association of Machinists District 837 voted 3,774 to 1,785 to approve a new five-year contract with McDonnell Douglas, the union hall and McDonnell's factories were abuzz. At the union hall, Machinists were still debating whether they had made the right decision. Over at the plant, company executives were preparing for an employee open house Sunday. Other nonunion workers were looking forward to their former co-workers' return. And the temporary replacement workers were making a hasty exit. Cars with California, Texas and Florida license plates jammed the parking lot outside McDonnell's Building 2 on Thursday. Many of those getting in and out of the cars were immigrants from southeast Asia or Latin America who spoke little English. Some replacement workers, such as Perez, who was laid off two years ago at McDonnell's aircraft plant in Long Beach, Calif., have had trouble finding jobs in the aerospace industry. Others, such as Tim Glover of San Antonio and Dennis Knight of suburban Los Angeles, are what their co-workers call "job shoppers." They bounce from one short-term - albeit high-paying - gig to the next, unable to find a permanent spot with an airline or jet manufacturer. Knight, whose family is in California, said he doesn't know where he will work next. "Phoenix, Kansas City, maybe Seattle," Knight speculated as Glover gave him a ride back to the Henry VIII Hotel in Bridgeton, one of several places where McDonnell housed the replacement workers. "I might go overseas. I've worked in England, Saudi Arabia." Said Glover, who has a family in Texas: "I'm probably headed to Wichita. I don't expect to stay there. It's like the rest of the industry. It's a sad life." Many replacement workers said they liked the work conditions and pay at McDonnell. "If the strikers don't want these jobs, we'll take them," Glover said. "I'm happy for them. They have bills to pay. These guys should be very thankful. The job security they were searching for doesn't exist." "Nowhere," Knight added, shaking his head. Ready To See Friends White-collar workers are looking forward to the walkout's end. Many have been pressed into unfamiliar jobs on the production line because of the lack of skilled workers. …

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