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Working In These Times

Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 1:43 pm

Locked-Out Honeywell Workers Travel Far and Wide to Fight Company

BY Mike Elk

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Honeywell Chairman and CEO Dave Cote speaks in Bangalore, India, after inaugurating a new company research development and engineering facility in 2009. Honeywell is worth $23 billion.   (Photo DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

As the Honeywell lockout in Metropolis, Ill., enters its 11th month, contract negotiations have bogged down, the union has accused the company of bargaining in bad faith and has threatened to file unfair labor practice against Honeywell for engaging in regressive bargaining.

It looks as if United Steelworkers Local 7-699 members will be locked out for many more months to come. But rather than despairing, they're expanding their campaign against Honeywell far and wide. 

When Honeywell tried to get a $106 million contract to treat wastewater for the City of Los Angeles, Honeywell workers contacted unions in Los Angeles to inform them about their lockout. The union then put pressure on the city not to give the contract to Honeywell. So far, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been hesitant to award the contract until the labor dispute in Metropolis is settled.

Furthermore, two locked-out union members from Metropolis, Stephen Lech and John Paul Smith, have traveled to Europe to meet with Honeywell union members in Europe to gather support. There they met with Honeywell workers aligned with the European Metalworkers Federation (EMF), European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers’ Federation, and the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU).

Last week, the Honeywell European Works Council (HEWC), which represents 30,000 Honeywell workers in Europe, issued a statement of support as well. The statement from HEWC Chairman Michael Petersen is particularly significant since under the European system, a works council has important influence on the management policies of a company that operates in Europe.

As the chairman of the Honeywell Works Council, Petersen sits on the board of Honeywell in Europe. While 223 workers in southern Illinois have very little control over the company, Petersen represents 30,000 Honeywell workers.  Petersen has a tremendous ability to create leverage with the company to resolve the Metropolis dispute.

“We will go wherever we can to let people know how awful this company is,”  USW 7-699 union spokesman John Paul Smith said. “It doesn’t matter whether its Europe or Africa or California. We are willing to go wherever the company is to tell people about what the company is doing.”


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Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Working In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is currently a labor reporter at Politico.

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