Back at Work After Lockout, USW Says Honeywell Unionbusting Continues

Mike Elk

Members of USW 7-669 rally in Madison, Wis., during their lockout.

Union says company fired two union activists 

In August, after 14 months of being locked out of their Honeywell International Metropolis, Ill., uranium enrichment facility, members of the United Steelworkers agreed to a three-year contract, ending the labor dispute. But it took more than two months for all the workers to actually return to full-time employment: According to federal law, all the previously locked-out workers needed to go through recertification trainings and qualification tests in order to return to the uranium facility.

Yet, if claims by USW officials are true, it appears that Honeywell’s attempts to bust — or at least punish — the USW 7 – 699 local may not be over. Two union activists were fired last week without just cause,” according to the the USW. Since the union plans to challenge the firings in arbitrations, it is not releasing the names of the two union fired workers.

However, Local 7 – 699 spokesman John Paul Smith did say that the workers were fired for actions that occurred during the lockout. The two workers were activists who served on lockout committees and were some of the most vocal opponents of the company. As was company practice throughout the long-running lockout, Honeywell did not return a request for comments.

Our workers agreed to Honeywell terms and conditions in the contract, as well as a re-entry plan with the company and a commitment of professionalism during and after the transition,” said Kevin Smith, USW staff representative The latest terminations are yet another example of Honeywell’s unwillingness to do the same.”

Beyond the recent firings, several workers who spoke with In These Times said the climate within the plant was tense. As a condition of the lockout settlement, Honeywell was allowed to hire scab replacement workers as contractors working inside the Honeywell uranium plant. Locked-out workers are now forced to work side by side with scabs who, over the course of the lockout, they exchanged tense words and insults. While workers in the production department have reported positive relations with supervisors at the plant, there has been several reports of intimidation” and harassment” by bosses in the maintenance department, where approximately 60 workers are employed. 

As Honeywell worker Lindsey Horn wrote on the wall of the Facebook group Support for Honeywell Workers – Metropolis, IL”: It seems to me that the past has not been left in the past for our union! This starting new and fresh is a one-sided deal.”

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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