WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt will help a Canadian investment firm with labor negotiations related to its purchase of the Boeing Co.'s commercial airplane operations in Kansas and Oklahoma, Onex Corp. announced Friday.
Gephardt will join a team of Onex advisers on the planned acquisition. Gephardt's focus will be on ``transition labor matters'' in negotiations with Boeing's unionized employees, Onex said.
Seth M. Mersky, managing director of Onex, said that Gephardt has shown a dedication during his long career to working with both companies and workers to keep manufacturing jobs in America.
``He has spent his career ... preserving jobs in America and representing issues affecting labor. And given what we are trying to do here, his perspective is very helpful to us going forward,'' Mersky said.
Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat, retired from Congress this year after serving since 1977. He ran twice for president, including last year before he dropping out after losing in the Iowa caucuses. He also ran in 1988. In 2004, he campaigned on promises that he would create a universal health care system and jobs if elected president.
Bob Brewer, Midwest director for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, said that in their discussions with Onex, union officials have made it clear that they would like a ``labor-sensitive person'' on the company's new board in Wichita.
Onex told union officials were looking at putting Gephardt on the board of the new aircraft company once the sale was finalized, Brewer said.
``We were well-pleased to see them move in that direction. It helps bridge the gap between labor and management. ... If you take a look at his past track record, I think he has been pro-labor and that upholds our interest in the placement of someone to the board for Onex,'' Brewer said.
Mersky said he could not discuss board appointments until Onex receives government approval for them.
Steve Rooney, District 70 president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, did not return a call Friday for comment.
SPEEA resumes negotiations with Onex late next week.
``We are not sure if this is going to have an immediate impact,'' Brewer said of Gephardt's involvement. ``We certainly hope if anything happens from this point forward, it is going to be very positive.''
When former aerospace giant McDonnell Douglas Corp. and its striking machinists had reached an impasse nine years ago, it was Gephardt who brought both sides together in his Capitol office _ where they brokered an end to a three-month walkout after 30 straight hours of talks.
Onex has not considered pulling out of the Boeing deal during its labor negotiations, Mersky said.
``We are convinced absolutely that our purchasing the business is the right thing for Wichita and the right thing for all the folks that are working there,'' Mersky said. ``We are hoping that with Dick we can convince everyone else as well.''