"You are an inspiration to workers everywhere who are taking a stand . . . congratulations on a fight well fought," said Dowling.
The Saturday morning rally began about 11 a.m. and was organized by USW Local 7-669 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of when about 250 union employees were locked out from their jobs at Honeywell's Metropolis plant on June 28, 2010.
"I am here to tell you that we will have our jobs back. Honeywell can not replace us with permanent workers," said USW 7-669 President Darrell Lillie, adding, "There has been a lot of rumors throughout town and in the media about dates, with the company stating that the union will not set a date for bargaining. We could settle this deal over a fax machine."
Lillie stated that the union and company had come to an agreement through various faxes but by the time the two had come to the table to iron on details, the company had backed away from the agreement.
"We are in the process of getting dates to get back to the table," he said, continuing, "I assuming you have heard that Honeywell was fined $119,000 by OSHA this past week on 17 violations. They are not operating the plant safely. The proof is in the pudding. And, this not only affects the health of those at the plant but in the local community. They are not following guidelines. The public should be outraged. If you can't run the plant safely, shut her down!"
According to Lillie, Honeywell is a greedy corporation that cares nothing about its work force, just the bottom line. "They have untrained workers and it was these workers that had the release in December. I realize it has been a tough time for members of our union and sometimes it's hard to keep fighting but we are fighting for the right thing — the middle class. Somebody has to stand up for the middle class. When you knock down the union, everybody's benefits go down," said Lillie.
Kip Phillips, International USW vice president, also addressed the crowd, saying, "Honeywell picked a small town, thinking if they can break them then they could move on to other plants. They didn't realize how tough their employees were here in Metropolis."
Phillips went on to say, "Danger is not only in Metropolis but Paducah and in the surrounding area" for not having the trained workers back on the job. With 17 OSHA violations, Honeywell doesn't know how to run the plant. You must keep the faith."
Also in attendance at the rally was Illinois Rep. Brandon Phelps, who said, "I have condemned the action of Honeywell. I know what you are going through. I carry a union card and am proud to be here. The scabs have made Massac County unsafe as well as the surrounding area. I am here to tell you that I am going back to Springfield and will bring in a legislative hearing. I want OSHA, RCE and congressional representatives present. By this hearing, they will see what Honeywell is doing to their workers. Your fight will continue and we will continue pressure."
Illinois State Sen. Gary Forby was also at the rally. "Why are we here? There are two reasons: putting people back to work and safety. We have to stick together and stay together. Unions are fighting your same fight through the nation. I've got two union cards and before I went into politics, I ran a union business. Honeywell doesn't want to settle at the table. One day, we are going to come back to Metropolis celebrating because each and everyone will have your jobs back," said Forby.
In a Honeywell press release, company spokesman Peter Dalpe said, "It is important to note that the union announced this rally even before our last negotiation session on May 25-26 - talks which the union abruptly ended early despite progress that was being made at the table. At that time, the union said it would provide dates when it could resume talks with the company. It has been nearly a month, and even though we have repeatedly asked them, the union has still not provided dates. This is unfortunate because there is only one remaining significant issue to be settled - overtime."
According to Dalpe, Honeywell believes that the union's time and energy would be better served at the bargaining table than in planning rallies, which don't bring either side any closer to agreement on a new contract. "Honeywell remains committed to reaching a fair and equitable settlement that helps restore the Metropolis Works plant to profitability and puts it on a path that is sustainable in the long run," said Dalpe.