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Unions take a stand against plans to privatize Lambert airport

The unions, which represent 14,000 employees in the area, argued the plans aren’t in the best interest of workers

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis area labor unions joined together Monday morning to take a stand against the airport privatization plans.

The unions represent 14,000 workers in the St. Louis area, including nearly 550 people at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The unions publicly came out against the privatization plans Monday, a day before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen could take a final vote on the measure.

“This rigged airport deal only benefits wealthy special interests and the well-connected,” said Lew Moye, president emeritus of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). “Working families in North City are sick of these empty promises; our neighborhoods need real investment, and airport privatization is not the way to do it.”

Credit: KSDK

St. Louis Board of Aldermen members Brandon Bosley, Megan Green and Cara Spencer joined the unions at Monday’s announcement in Kiener Plaza.

A bill by Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed would ask voters if the city should turn over control of Lambert airport to a private contractor in a possible 50-year $1.7 billion lease.

Reed wants the bill passed quickly so it can be on the November ballot where another petition-driven initiative is likely to ask voters the same question: should St. Louis privatize its airport?

"You need to get this on the ballot, otherwise there's going to be one choice," Reed said last month.

RELATED: Idea of leasing Lambert is back as two plans could ask voters to decide privatization

Reed said in his version of the plan, money from any airport lease will be dedicated to "safety and quality of life" programs like job training and neighborhood redevelopment.

In the petitioners' plan Reed said all the money from an airport lease would go into the general fund with no strings attached.

The unions against privatization argue the plans aren’t in the best interest of workers.

“Privatization means lower wages and worse benefits when working families are already struggling to make ends meet,” said UNITE HERE Local 74 President Kevin McNatt. The union represents nearly 450 employees at Lambert and approximately 3,500 workers across the St. Louis area. “Privatizing Lambert would harm working people across our entire city.”

There are multiple unions in support of the push to privatize the airport. They include the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, which is the largest private-sector union in Missouri. It represents more than 9,500 partners in central and eastern portions of the state.

RELATED: Board of Aldermen bill would put airport privatization on the November ballot

RELATED: Petition to get airport privatization onto November ballot gets 38K signatures, organizers say