Seattle Boeing Co. has hired former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, who has consistently found support among labor unions, to advise the aerospace company on its dispute with the striking Machinists union.
"I have a longstanding relationship with the Machinists and I can be somewhat of an intermediary, an honest broker to find answers," the former Missouri congressman told The Seattle Times for Friday editions.
Gephardt, who twice ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, retired from the House last year and now works part-time for the Washington, D.C., law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary.
A spokeswoman for DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary said Gephardt couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Connie Kelliher, spokeswoman for Machinists District Lodge 751 in Seattle, praised Gephardt and said the union was waiting to see how his involvement would affect the dispute.
"Gephardt's a good person (who's) always been supportive of workers," she said.
Boeing's Seattle commercial airplane operations have been shuttered for three weeks by the strike. The union and the company have not resumed negotiations and both sides say they remain far apart.
The Machinists have long been Gephardt loyalists, supporting his unsuccessful run for president and backing his other political moves. Gephardt also told The Times that he helped settle a labor dispute between the Machinists and a former McDonnell Douglas plant, now owned by Boeing, in his hometown of St. Louis.
Chicago-based Boeing confirmed in a statement that Gephardt is one of the company's consultants.
"He is well-respected in business circles and brings a valuable perspective to labor-management relations," the company said.
Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers declined to comment further.
Gephardt also consulted on labor issues for Onex Corp., the Canadian company that bought Boeing's commercial airplane plants in Wichita, Kan., and Tulsa, Okla. The Onex subsidiary that runs the former Boeing plants is now called Spirit AeroSystems, and Gephardt serves on Spirit's board.