High anxieties, few answers surround Honeywell decision


Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

MASSAC COUNTY, Il.---The company they worked for kicked them out without warning and no one is sure when they might get to go back.
Right now company inspectors are inside the Metropolis, Illinois plant checking for damaged equipment after an afternoon discovery prompted an immediate shutdown.
A spokesman for U.S.W. Local 7-669 said Honeywell is classifying the shutdown of its Metropolis plant as a temporary layoff.
At first we heard claims from the union that Honeywell told them they were looking into whether someone sabotaged the equipment.
Workers Local 6 spoke with said they had not heard that.
However, U.S.W. spokesman John Paul Smith released a statement today that says that's what Honeywell told them.
There are still lots of questions. How long will that investigation take, specifically what equipment was damaged, how many workers will be laid off and will they even be paid?
Nearly eight hours after employees were rushed out of the plant, the answers still aren't there.

"Right now everybody is in shock, unfortunately we don't have the answers the company is unwilling to give us any answers and what we do from here basically depends on what the company tells us," Local United Steel Workers President-elect Stephen Lech said.

Not knowing where to go, the United Steel Workers gathered for hours outside their union hall.

Lech admits everyone is anxious.

"Everybody has got a family so it's very irritating," Lech said.

A statement Local 6 received from the United Steelworkers said the company is investigating claims of sabotage, but a company spokesperson released this statement;

"It would be irresponsible for anyone to presume the cause of the damage until the investigation is completed. the company will take all appropriate actions to ensure the safe operation of our plant at all times."

Outside, workers told Local 6 while they were sent out, company officials wouldn't tell them why .

"They said they wouldn't speculate on what the damage was or where the damage was so we don't know," one worker said.

"We're in the process of mending fences, the cuts were deep from the lockout but we're back to work and we're glad to be back to work, were continuing life and I think the company is to and a this time we're not suggesting we think there anything more to than what the company telling us, which is very little," Lech said.

There are about 350 employees at the site.
That includes both union and non-union workers.
The company spokesperson said during this intense inspection, they won't need all those employees.
He said the company is still determining the exact number of employees affected.
The union workers returned to work back in October after a lockout that lasted more than a year.
Emotions were running pretty high immediately after workers were asked to leave, many said they've worked very hard since they've been allowed back inside after the contract dispute ended. Some of them said they feel like they're going through the lock out all over again.
The union said they were told they might get to go back to work sometime next week.
The company informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the situation.
Honeywell said this wasn't a leak, no one is in danger and the damaged equipment was even in use at the time of the discovery.