Honeywell letter explains layoffs

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

METROPOLIS, Ill. — Leaving town to find a job: hundreds of local families face a new reality Thursday after one of the area's largest employers makes it official. The plant shut down for up to 15 months, the majority of the workforce laid off.

Many of those employees were already out of a job after the Metropolis Honeywell plant laid them off without warning back in May.

The plant manager sent a letter to all employees at the Metropolis plant.

It states after a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection, the company continues to evaluate upgrades to ensure the facility is prepared for a natural disaster.

The completion of those upgrades could shut down the plant for 12 to 15 months.

That means no jobs for 228 of the 334 employees during that period.

Last week, lots of people feared the plant may never re-open or at least not at full capacity. In the letter, the plant manager indicated the reason for the shutdown was to evaluate necessary upgrades and make those upgrades.

The laid-off union president met with the company and feels confident he and others will get to go back to work in 15 months. The problem is the 228 union and non-union employees have families to feed and many of them won't be able to wait for Honeywell to call them back to work.

Locals said they won't be surprised if their Honeywell neighbors and friends have to leave town just to find work.

Every time Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel gets a letter from Honeywell, he cringes. Thursday's letter is no exception. In it, Honeywell plant manager Larry Smith makes it clear: 228 employees will be laid off.

A company spokesperson told us the layoffs will likely last 12 to 15 months. During that time, the plant will remain shut down as the company makes upgrades to prepare for a possible natural disaster.

United Steelworkers local President Stephen Lech got the same letter and met with company leaders Thursday afternoon.

"At least now we have the information to decide what to do next," Lech told Local 6.

Lech, like many of his coworkers, has been laid off since May and said he wasn't sure what the future held.

"It's relieving to me I can go home and tell my family now I know what's going on," Lech said.

After meeting with Honeywell leaders, he believes this shutdown period will only last up to 15 months.

"Its comforting to know the plant is going to open back up, that we do have a job to go back to," Lech said.

But the president said many of his members can't wait that long. In fact, some are already applying for jobs in other places.

Mayor McDaniel said he couldn't blame anyone for leaving but worried about his small community's future with so many people unemployed.

"There's not many people in Metropolis that doesn't have someone that's involved and affected by Honeywell in some way," McDaniel said.

The mayor said making matters worse, several local employers have recently laid off much of their workforce. About 300 people have been laid off during the past few months.

On the bright side, the mayor said the Massac County Port promises new jobs and should attract new industry. But he said that won't happen soon enough.

While we know how many employees face layoffs, Honeywell hasn't released exactly who will be laid off. The union president said he hopes to get that information some time next week.

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