JEFFERSON CITY — The strike at General Motors plants across the nation comes as Missouri and the nation’s largest automaker remain in talks over a $50 million incentive package to expand and upgrade its truck and van plant west of St. Louis.
Last week, as the walkout by more than 49,000 United Auto Workers employees was brewing, administration officials had little new information about the status of taxpayer subsidies for the Wentzville truck and van plant.
“The department is in regular communication with the company, and we are optimistic for a resolution soon. Since it is an active project, we cannot comment further than that,” said Department of Economic Development spokeswoman Holly Koofer-Thompson.
GM also had little to add about the talks on the eve of the strike at more than 50 manufacturing facilities across nine states.
“Yes, we are still evaluating the business case,” said company spokeswoman Kim Carpenter in response to a Post-Dispatch inquiry.
The comments come five months after word first surfaced that Parson was spearheading talks with GM to upgrade and expand the plant, which has been open since 1983.
The talks were linked to Parson’s push for a package of subsidies and workforce development proposals he was lobbying lawmakers to approve in the final weeks of the legislative session.
The package moved rapidly through the House but became ensnared in a late session filibuster in the Senate by a bloc of conservative Republicans who compared Parson’s call for money for incentives and subsidies little more than a “slush fund” for the governor.
The package, however, did reach Parson’s desk and he signed the legislation in July.
Under the plan, GM would get up to $5 million per year in tax credits over a 10-year period if the company invests at least $750 million in the Wentzville assembly plant.
GM currently employs about 4,320 hourly and salaried workers at the plant, and another 200 who are contracted for cleaning services.
The push for state assistance came as GM was shuttering five plants in North America and laying off more than 14,000 salaried and hourly workers as part of a restructuring.
Supporters of the plan in Missouri said the incentive package would help the Missouri plant avoid a similar fate. The administration never released a list of potential competitors for the plant.
The legislation also does not mention any number of new jobs that would be created at the plant where the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Express Cargo Van, GMC Canyon pickup trucks and GMC Savana full-size van are built.
In hitting the picket lines, the UAW has vowed that keeping plants open in other states would be a key bargaining demand. Late Saturday it said while there had been progress in the talks there was still “significant differences between the parties on wages, health care benefits, temporary employees, job security and profit sharing.”
Koofer-Thompson offered no timetable for an announcement on the GM subsidies.
“We want to make sure that we make the best possible deal for the people of Missouri. When we can share more information, we will certainly be in touch,” Koofer-Thomson said.
She said the state is hoping the strike is short.
“General Motors is a major employer for our state and has a huge impact on many families in Missouri. The Department is hopeful for a quick resolution,” Koofer-Thompson said.
Parson, meanwhile, was in California Monday trying to lure tech companies in Silicon Valley to expand in Missouri.
“Our state’s technology industry continues to grow, and we look forward to exploring ways we can build upon our strengths to bring even more technology companies to the Midwest,” Parson said.