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Labor Lockout Lingers At Honeywell Nuclear Plant 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-power-to-the-people dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Federal News Radio reports that in Metropolis, Illinois, the nation's only site for refining uranium for eventual use in nuclear power plants, some 230 union workers locked out by the company since last June take turns picketing and warning of possible toxic releases into the community while they're not at their jobs. Even in better times, the plant has been a source of concern. In September 2003, toxic hydrogen fluoride was released in an accident. Three months later, seepage of mildly radioactive gas sent four people to the hospital and prompted the evacuation of nearby residents. Now a recent safety inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that temporary workers brought in by Honeywell weren't properly trained and were cheating on tests, and that Honeywell had neglected to report liquids that were released into the air. Metropolis' troubles began last spring when efforts to negotiate a new contract broke down at the Honeywell plant. Honeywell opted not to let the union employees work without a contract, citing the lack of bargaining progress and what it called the union's refusal to agree to provide 24 hours of notice before any strike."
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Labor Lockout Lingers At Honeywell Nuclear Plant

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  • Coverage? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trip6 (1184883) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:19AM (#34627168)

    Locked out since June? This seems newsworthy to me, where is the lame stream media on this story?

    • Re:Coverage? (Score:5, Informative)

      by delirium of disorder (701392) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:40AM (#34627292) Homepage Journal

      If you want good reporting on labor from anything but a business perspective (ie how will this effect share value), you have to look at the media of the labor movement itself, not the corporate owned and controlled mainstream media. On the Metropolis Honeywell workers in particular, I suggest these two [archive.org] episodes [archive.org] of Labor Express radio. Another good source for labor news is the Industrial Worker [iww.org], the paper of the IWW.

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:58AM (#34627420) Homepage Journal

        Sounds like a job for... SUPERMAN!

    • Take a guess... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:53AM (#34627384) Homepage Journal

      Locked out since June? This seems newsworthy to me, where is the lame stream media on this story?

      Hmmm. Union workers are locked out of their jobs by their employer. I wonder why that didn't make the news, when any case of a union considering a vote on talking about thinking about announcing the possibility of maybe polling to take a vote on a half-day strike makes the news immediately?

      • There is no labour contract in force, so those jobs are not the union workers any longer.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jimbolauski (882977)
          If only it were that easy to get rid of union control, GM and Chrysler may have fared better.
          • by lxs (131946)

            Sure. because they would make all their cars in China.

        • by slick7 (1703596)

          There is no labour contract in force, so those jobs are not the union workers any longer.

          It's so much cheaper to hire Abullah and Al Kaida to work for half of what the unions wanted.

      • I've said it before. The idea that the news media has a liberal bias is bullshit. News media has a corporate (and therefore conservative) bias. The bias is often (as in this case) not demonstrated by spin they put on a story, but by the lack of coverage on important issues that the media's sponsors don't want you to hear about.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Locked out since June? This seems newsworthy to me, where is the lame stream media on this story?

      Doesn't take a conspiracy to notice that its "only" 200 temporarily locked out, in an era of multi-thousand permanent downsizings everywhere else.

      In 2006, two hundred out of work may have made the news. In 2010, two hundred out of work is called the local unemployment line "dept of workforce development" or whatever they're called.

      There was a lot of gallows humor locally when the local unemployment office put itself in the parking lot of the local tech/trade school. "theres a reason they're planning on ne

      • Re:Coverage? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @10:16AM (#34627636)

        Doesn't take a conspiracy to notice that its "only" 200 temporarily locked out, in an era of multi-thousand permanent downsizings everywhere else.

        Except maybe the tiny fact that these 230 workers are being locked out of a nuclear plant with a less than stellar safety record. Who's monitoring the radioactive materials during this lockout?

        Funny the government can prevent a union from striking if the industry is considered too important to our nation's infrastructure (eg. Railroads, Air Traffic Controllers), but this same government won't get involved in a labor dispute that may put a community at risk like at a nuclear plant. Funny how government intervention seems to favor the employer and not the employees.

        Is that contraversial enough for you?

        • Re:Coverage? (Score:5, Informative)

          by vlm (69642) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @10:29AM (#34627750)

          Doesn't take a conspiracy to notice that its "only" 200 temporarily locked out, in an era of multi-thousand permanent downsizings everywhere else.

          Except maybe the tiny fact that these 230 workers are being locked out of a nuclear plant with a less than stellar safety record. Who's monitoring the radioactive materials during this lockout?

          You fell for the advertising. Sorry. Don't feel bad, a lot of people are paid a lot of money to trick people like you.

          This plant just converts semi-refined ore into refined fuel. Before its cooked in the reactor, reactor fuel is about as radioactive and harmful as granite. The Co-60 and Sr-90 and other nasties come from fission, not a fuel for fission. There is no serious radioactive danger from the plant, at least compared to other substances in the plant, such as HF.

          The biggest problem they have is containment of hydrofluoric acid. Apparently they have a quite an astounding safety violation history. F-ing bucket chemists. However, that stuff doesn't just leap out of the carboy like a caged animal and burrow into your groundwater, it requires a tech at the lab bench to screw up. Whom by definition is not there during a lockout.

          We're not talking about locking the workers out of three mile island during the meltdown. Some of the (paid) clowns in the media trying to rile things up, they might be talking about that, or as close as they can get without libel / slander suits, but that does not by any means make it true.

          • No I didn't fall for the advertising. The hazards that are present during operations do not completely go away when operations stop. I assume that the chemicals are being stored somewhere on premise. Who's monitoring it?

            The word radiation doesn't scare me. If the safety regulations are to be believed then I should be glowing in the dark by now. However in the case of the Honywell plant, how are the chemicals being stored and what about the radioactive fuel that is no longer inert yet not delivered? Meltdow

            • by vlm (69642)

              No I didn't fall for the advertising. The hazards that are present during operations do not completely go away when operations stop. I assume that the chemicals are being stored somewhere on premise. Who's monitoring it?

              In theory they could have just locked the door behind themselves and ran for it, although that seems unlikely.

              Alternatively, in theory, the HF is a liquid acid you simply store it in teflon lined carboys / barrels on a shelf. Not challenging, done all the time. Stack the barrels over a bed of decon material, which is probably how they're usually stored, in case they leak. The hexaflouride can be reduced to U metal using sodium, resulting in a pile of sodium fluoride (as in your toothpaste) and U metal.

              • Normally I'd agree except for this:

                In September 2003, toxic hydrogen fluoride was released in an accident. Three months later, seepage of mildly radioactive gas sent four people to the hospital and prompted the evacuation of nearby residents. Now a recent safety inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that temporary workers brought in by Honeywell weren't properly trained and were cheating on tests, and that Honeywell had neglected to report liquids that were released into the air.

                Emphasis

          • Whom by definition is not there during a lockout.

            Read the summary. Temp workers were brought in. Incompetent temp workers, who haven't been working there long and don't have the institutional knowledge of how to run things. Leading to exactly the problem described.

            • by slick7 (1703596)

              Read the summary. Temp workers were brought in. Incompetent temp workers, who haven't been working there long and don't have the institutional knowledge of how to run things. Leading to exactly the problem described.

              No habla eenglays.

          • by KovaaK (1347019)

            Thank you.

            I'm quite annoyed by the people who are here pretending to care about the environment and safety of the public. Most people yelling about safety in these comments are just here because it contains the words nuclear and/or radiation. If they really care, they should be asking how it compares to other situations that happened near us, such as: the Gulf Oil leak, the Massey coal mine collapse, the Natural Gas power plant explosion in CT, the Natural Gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno CA, any non-

        • mr burns and homer simpson

      • After then complete their IT training / become a video game developer in 24 hours certificate, as per the radio commercials promising $75/yr, the kids can walk across the parking lot to the unemployment office

        You can't collect unemployment insurance payments unless you have worked for at least a year.

        • by vlm (69642)

          After then complete their IT training / become a video game developer in 24 hours certificate, as per the radio commercials promising $75/yr, the kids can walk across the parking lot to the unemployment office

          You can't collect unemployment insurance payments unless you have worked for at least a year.

          "gallows humor" does not achieve its fame because of its accuracy. Its still funny, even if not true.

          I am told that for decades the advice at the unemployment office was "go to the tech school and get a new career", hence the move to their parking lot, but now that ALL fields are imploding, I'm not sure that an unemployed and experienced carpenter will necessarily be better off as an unemployed and inexperienced welder. Although, I suppose its something to do, rather than watch Oprah all day.

    • by camperslo (704715)

      Locked out since June? This seems newsworthy to me, where is the lame stream media on this story?

      My B.S. detector is going off.

      Am I the only one taking note of "Federal News Radio" as being pretty much unheard of? The name sounds like a network, yet it is apparently a single station, WFED a directional AM station in Washington D.C.
      http://www.federalnewsradio.com/ [federalnewsradio.com] It's strange that the website shows 1500 AM, but doesn't even mention the call letters. I'm surprised to see so many stories listed on the website, and puzzled that the large buttons near the top of the page don't link anywhere.

      The story ma

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm one of the locked out workers. We have been reaching out to the national media outlets since June. If it weren't for sites like the HuffPost, and this one, we would just be forgotten about.

      • by vlm (69642)

        I'm one of the locked out workers. We have been reaching out to the national media outlets since June. If it weren't for sites like the HuffPost, and this one, we would just be forgotten about.

        I'm sorry dude, best of luck.

        So, in the opinion of a guy whom works there, that being you, is the safety record of the plant as bad as I've heard, or is it the usual mix of political stuff mixed with scary words to improve ratings? Also everyone with an industrial background knows theres safety problems because of management, and theres safety problems because of workers, and theres safety problems because of bad luck/inherent issues of the job (is there any place that works with HF that is not "scary"?),

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        I'm one of the locked out workers. We have been reaching out to the national media outlets since June. If it weren't for sites like the HuffPost, and this one, we would just be forgotten about.

        Sounds like you're being ENRON'd.

  • by Jimpqfly (790794) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:19AM (#34627172) Homepage Journal
    "Everything is under control, our main Technical Adviser is Homer Simpson."
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:20AM (#34627176)

    Honeywell didn't train the guys who came to my business to repair the alarm system (they later sold their alarm business).

    People showed up with no testing equipment to check for open lines, bad connections, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by azalin (67640)

      If Honeywell dares to employ untrained/unqualified people in a nuclear power plant they should be prosecuted. And sued. Into oblivion.
      I would suggest that every company running potentially dangerous factories should be forced to place their ceo's offices and shareholder meetings directly downwind from said facility.
      Where is the FBI when you need them?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Honeywell's on my shit list right now; they shut down the Springfield plant and moved it to Mexico where they could pay slave wages, leaving some friends of mine out of work.

      They're your typical, amoral evil corporation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seems like if the union workers were to strike, the potential for a lot of damage would be high.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's actually the worst of both worlds.

      When (not if) left unchecked, greedy business owners will generally do shit that endangers the people.
      When (not if) left unchecked, lazy unions will lower the drive for greatness while costing a shitload of money.
      When (not if) left unchecked, government will pretty much screw up anything it touches.

      In short, everybody is wrong and there's nothing we can do about it (aside from sitting back, cracking open a cold one, and watching the shit hit the fan). Anyone who tries

      • by iserlohn (49556)

        You hit the nail on the head, the way to keep people honest is to pit man against man and make sure that there is enough impartiality in the system for this adversarial system of checks and balances to be effective.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Union workplaces are, statistically speaking, much safer than non-union workplaces in the same and related industries. When you have a collective bargaining agreement, job security, and an explicit grievance procedure, you aren't afraid to report and fix safety problems. When you're non-union, you have no representation, are underpaid, and can loose your job at any time, so you won't stick your neck out for safety. I would most certainly prefer that nuclear workers (or any power-plant workers for that ma

      • by vlm (69642)

        Another good argument is on a large scale statistical basis, the more of a monopoly a company is, the lower the quality of management. It seems intuitively obvious, folks whom can compete and win, will take leadership roles in competitive industries where their skills will be rewarded, those whom compete and lose will need to find a place where they can't lose because there is no competition. So there's a continuous sweeping of the bottom of the leadership pool into monopolies, government, hyper-regulated

      • This is completely contrary to my experience. We have union workers at our university farm, and their major job appears to be to try and avoid doing anything that they haven't done at least 1,000 times before. They loath change, even change that is in their best interest. Heaven forbid they need to adapt to a changing workplace environment like the rest of the Freakin' world.

        Unions began to protect labor from aggressive management, but most unions I've run across have long ago abandoned that goal in f
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:32AM (#34627248)

    Time to call Superman... [wikipedia.org]

  • What they do there (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:55AM (#34627400)

    They convert uranium ore [globalsecurity.org] -- usually in the form of uranium oxides ("yellow cake") -- into uranium hexafluoride [wikipedia.org] by eventually dissolving it in hydrofluoric acid. That gas is then what gets run through centrifuges [wikipedia.org] or gas diffusion plants to isotopically enrich the U-235. So, it's a lot of messy chemistry (see links) with mildly radioactive materials (uranium isn't strongly radioactive). HF is particularly nasty because although it is a weak acid it reacts with almost anything and it is quite toxic.

  • by nysus (162232) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @10:05AM (#34627498)

    See http://blip.tv/file/4535436 [blip.tv]

    These guys are hard core and fighting the good fight. Their struggle against corporate greed should be our struggle.

  • by dtmos (447842) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @10:28AM (#34627742)

    What did they do, release an aerosol? I hate imprecise reporting.

    Anyway, the primary source (the safety report from the NRC) is available from the union local web site [usw7-669.com]. (I confirmed that the same document is available directly from the NRC, but couldn't find a URL that didn't include my personal information.)

  • by rbanzai (596355) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @10:34AM (#34627838)

    ...it's the people producing it that are dangerous.

  • This is _exactly_ the sort of thing that shouldn't be done by private companies. Private companies will _always_ cut corners and compromise the health and welfare of local citizens. The ones that don't get run out of business by the ones that do. Take a look at dialysis clinics. The private ones have a 25%-30% higher death rate. Google it, it's all over the (independent) news.
  • Nuclear power is at the very base of the modern economy. Fossil fuels won't supply our energy needs for long. Renewables can't make up the difference in the short term. We can't afford to dismantle our energy production and ship it off to the third world the same way we did with toy manufacturing.

    The Honeywell CEO was on the news just a few days ago saying the only reason US businesses are hoarding cash and aren't hiring is that they don't have "certainty" [foxbusiness.com]. How could you possibly not have "certainty" in

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