SANTA FE -- About 340 workers at an Omaha plastics factory will lose pay or have to work next Saturday to make up for time lost during a visit by President Bush today to promote his ''jobs and growth plan,'' their boss said this weekend.
Brad Crosby, president of Airlite Plastics Co., said about 170 of his workers will lose a full day's pay and another 170 will be docked for part of their pay for today unless they make up the time they spend attending Bush's speech.
Airlite, which will shut down for its first shift and part of the second shift to provide a photogenic backdrop for Bush's speech, will be the afternoon stop on a two-day swing by Bush to pressure senators to support a large tax cut as the measure heads to the Senate floor.
Bush will stand near a production line that makes polystyrene containers for shipping steak, vaccines, and other goods.
''Since we have another shift that will have to work, it would be difficult to just give credit to the people who didn't work while they were attending the event,'' Crosby said. ''The really good option was just to offer the chance to work on Saturday. We feel that's a more fair approach.''
Airlite's plans were reported in Saturday's Omaha World-Herald. It was the second time this week that Bush's aggressive schedule of photo opportunities brought unwanted publicity. Several Democrats on Capitol Hill complained last week that the president's May Day speech on an aircraft carrier had been a political use of military assets.
Crosby said he spoke to several of the company's 510 hourly workers about the decision, and they were not concerned.
A White House official declined comment except to say that Bush looks forward to talking to the people of Nebraska about his plan to ''put money in their pockets.'' Bush said in his prerecorded radio address Saturday that his message in his travels next week ''will be simple: The surest way to grow this economy and create jobs is to leave more money in the hands of the people who earn it.''
In the Democratic response, Governor James E. McGreevey, N.J., called for a ''return to the days of balanced budgets, responsible spending, and investments -- investments in education, roads, and small businesses.''
The president and his wife Laura Bush are spending the weekend in Santa Fe at the home of Roland W. Betts, a New York developer who was a Bush fraternity brother at Yale University and his partner when he owned the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Highlighting different parts of his economic proposal, Bush will speak to small-business owners near Albuquerque today, then hold a roundtable with families at Airlite in Nebraska before heading to Indianapolis, where he will meet with seniors tomorrow. Bush's aides describe Omaha as the most crucial stop, since Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, has become their top lobbying target on the tax-cut package.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.