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USW Warns Honeywell – Lockout Puts Community at Risk For Toxic Leaks

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USW Warns Honeywell – Lockout Puts Community at Risk For Toxic Leaks

For nearly a year, the steelworkers’ union has been warning the Honeywell Corporation and the general public that the uranium processing plant in Metropolis , IL is a disaster waiting to happen.

Honeywell contends that the plant is being run safely; however, their track record at that particular plant is less than stellar.

The steelworkers’ union (USW) claims that if Honeywell does not change its practices, a Fukushima-like accident could happen within Illinois.

Many believe the lockout is a form of retaliation against the workers who reported Honeywell’s illegal storing of nuclear waste, which later leaked into the Ohio River.

Ever since Honeywell locked the union out of the Metropolis facility, workers have been picketing outside and union representatives have been warning that the replacement workers, or scabs, that the company has brought in are not sufficiently trained and put the community at even greater risk.

Accidents Since the Union Lockout

The USW may have a good point. Since the lockout in June of last year, there was an explosion in August and a toxic chemical leak in December.

Union leaders across the globe are now asking Honeywell to reconsider their lockout in the name of safety. Michael Petersen, Honeywell European Works Council (EWC) President; and Ian Tonks, National Officer of the union UNITE in the United Kingdom, stated:

We believe the safety of the plant has been compromised on several occasions by the present temporary workforce. We find these actions totally unacceptable and we are dismayed at the inflexible attitude of Honeywell management towards its long standing employees of Metropolis.

European labor leaders, representing 16 million workers, in a statement to Honeywell said:

Considering the height of current concern about safety and security in the nuclear industry and its supply chain, particularly after the disaster at Fukushima in Japan, we are deeply concerned about the situation in Metropolis.

Honeywell argues that these are just ploys to get the union back into the facility.

Union Has a Better Safety Record

However, it does seem that the USW are taking extra steps to ensure the public’s safety.

The union conducted a training program in January at their HS&E department in an effort to train local fire departments on how to tend to various emergencies at the Metropolis plant.

On the other hand, Honeywell has not taken any steps to ensure the health and safety of the scab workers or the general public.

Honeywell continues to operate the plant with inexperienced temporary workers from industrial contractor The Shaw Group; which does not have the best reputation for health and safety practices either.

For example, The Shaw Group was fined $6.2 million by the federal government in 2009 for keeping employees from reporting safety problems at nuclear facilities located in Alabama and Tennessee.

It has also been reported that a report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents Honeywell cheating on a safety and qualification test for many of the Shaw Group workers that replaced the locked-out workers.

Conflict of Interest Between Honeywell and Obama Administration

It is interesting to note that usually the federal government is very quick to get involved in matters such as these. However, the Obama administration has been strangely quiet in the Metropolis matter.

This may have something to do with the relationship between the president and Honeywell’s CEO, David Cotes.

Honeywell donated $3.8 million to the Democratic Party. Also, David Cotes was hand-picked by Obama to serve on the deficit commission. Presently Cotes serves as the head of the U.S.-India Forum and even flew with President Obama to tour India.

Though the USW, along with other labor union representatives, are motivated by getting the workers their jobs back, they make a valid argument against Honeywell. If the overall safety of the workers and the general public is at risk, then Honeywell should do everything in its power to operate the facility in the safest manner possible. Even if it does mean reinstating the locked out workers.

America cannot afford to have a disaster like the one in Fukushima, Japan.

Originally published on

  • Wilbur

    If the union members haven’t worked in the plant for close to a year, just how “qualified” could they be at the present time?

    Face it; safety isn’t the issue here; rather, it’s a union that wants more for its members than what they’re worth.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment Wilber – although I’m not sure where you read that Union members only worked for the plant for less than a year? The article stated that the Union has been warning the plant about the safety concerns for nearly a year…is that what you were referring to?

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