Civilian Workers Air Concerns

Ricky Smith, Senior Chief Steward of the Local 2793, says while Meridian Naval Air Station may be safe from closure for now, there are workers at the base that still worry about their job security.

And if pilot training moves to Texas, but the aircraft stay in Meridian, Smith says at least 50 to 60 people would lose their jobs here.

"If the aircraft stay here but you're not training them, then that means they're not flying them," said Smith. "Which means the company out there will lay people off. If you're not flying, then you don't need the people."

Smith has sent letters and e-mails to all of Mississippi's Congressmen and Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith asking them to fight to keep training as well as aircraft at NAS Meridian. So far, he says only Congressmen Ronnie Shows and Chip Pickering have responded.

"We would hope the representatives would do what's best for the people in Mississippi," said Smith.

The union representative says that only 31 out of 282 workers at Sikorsky Support Services, the company that handles aircraft repair at NAS Meridian, would be willing to relocate to Texas. However, the rest would still probably move out of the Meridian area.

"A guy out here making $17 to $20 an hour as an aircraft mechanic isn't going to go back to minimum wage and stay in the area hoping for a job," said Smith. "He'll move to another state where there is work."

Smith maintains that the loss of those workers and their purchasing power would be felt in the local economy.