Monday, August 09, 2010

Another Lock Out

The squeeze if being put on more workers, this time at a uranium processing plant in Superman's home town. When the union refused a contract which would lower the pension rates of new workers and would reduce medical benefits for retirees, Honeywell, operator of the plant, simply locked them out. The union had committed the unpardonable corporate sin of thinking that their health was too important to negotiate away, especially given the nature of the work-place exposure.

...Many workers believe that the plant contributed to their fellow employees’ illnesses, which is a central reason the union is refusing to accept the plant operator’s plan to reduce pensions for newly hired workers and health benefits for retirees.

On June 28, Honeywell, the plant operator, locked out its 220 union employees after negotiations stalled, accusing the union of refusing to give the company 24 hours’ notice of a strike. The union has picketed ever since.

“We deal with hydrofluoric acid,” said Darrell Lillie, president of United Steelworkers Local 7-669, which represents the union workers. “We make fluorine. This is bad stuff. The least we feel like we could have is good medical benefits when we retire.”

This plant in Metropolis, Illinois, has a history of safety problems, so much so that the federal government has had to keep a close watch on the unit. While the company claims that it has cooperated fully with all government investigations and that the rate of cancer among workers and residents of the area is no higher than the rest of the state, the workers aren't willing to take any chances. Given the nature of the work, it isn't hard to understand why.

Here's the kicker, however. The plant is still operating without the trained workers, relying on salaried personnel and scabs:

With the union workers locked out, 152 salaried Honeywell employees have been running the plant and 203 contract workers were brought in from a Louisiana company to help.

“They’re trying to bring in old recruits who have been retired and train them to run the plant,” said Jerry Baird, whose restaurant, Diamond Lil’s, has been hauling barbecue, lemonade and ice to the picket line. “If they remember everything, it’ll probably run. If they don’t, they’ll probably kill us all.”
[Emphasis added]

Cold comfort, that.



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