METROPOLIS, Ill. – Defying a federal warrant, Honeywell today blocked an OSHA inspection at the company’s Metropolis, Illinois plant.
On February 8, the company refused to allow a Honeywell worker chosen by the union to accompany the OSHA inspection team. Federal law gives the union the absolute right to designate a “walk-around” representative. OSHA has since obtained a warrant from a federal judge. Today Honeywell refused to honor the warrant.
“The right to accompany an inspector is critical,” said Mike Wright, Director of Health, Safety and Environment for the United Steelworks (USW), which represents Honeywell workers. “An inspector may know a lot about safety, but not much about the plant and you can’t expect management to point out problems that might get them cited. That’s why Congress wrote union walk-around rights into the law.”
“This plant uses huge amounts of some very hazardous chemicals,” said Darrell Lillie, president of USW Local 7-669. “If they are not handled safely, they are a threat to people in the plant and community residents for miles around. So what’s Honeywell trying to hide from OSHA?”
OSHA will next seek a contempt citation against the company. “Honeywell is a major federal contractor,” said Lillie. “And here they’re defying federal law.”
The Honeywell plant converts uranium to a form used to make nuclear fuels. The process uses thousands of gallons of hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic chemical that could spread for miles if released into the environment. The company locked out the 228 local union members June 28 in an effort to impose drastic cuts in benefits and limit union rights, including union participation in the safety program. Honeywell is currently running the plant with poorly trained replacement workers. Several incidents have occurred since the lockout began, including a December 22 hydrofluoric acid leak, which triggered the OSHA investigation.
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, atomic energy and the service sector.