Though seldom used, during the course of negotiations (particularly at impasse), an employer is legally permitted to lock out unionized employees until an agreement is reached.
In the little town of Metropolis, Illinois, there is a Honeywell plant that processes uranium. Honeywell’s workforce in Metropolis is unionized by the United Steelworkers.
As is sometimes the case when employers can suffer irreparable economic harm if a union were to call a strike, Honeywell—feeling it had made a good offer to the union—made a decision to preemptively lock out its unionized workforce on August 1st, stating [in PDF]:
Despite two weeks of good faith negotiations, the company and the union bargaining committee remain far apart on several key issues, most notably health care coverage and subcontracting/staffing. Meanwhile, we must ensure that we can continue to serve our customers reliably. The Metropolis facility had to rebuild its customer base after an unexpected 14-month production shutdown in 2012-13, and these customers are counting on the plant for certainty that their needs for UF6 will be met. For these reasons, and in support of our critical bargaining objectives, the company has decided to not allow members of the bargaining unit to return to work until an agreement on a new contract is reached. [Emphasis added.]
According to Honeywell’s website, the unionized workers make more than most in the region–including teachers and police officers.
At the time of the lockout, the company stated was disappointed the union leadership did not let their members vote on the company’s proposal.
In early November, the Steelworkers filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging “Honeywell threatens to permanently replace union workers, illegally dealt directly with employees instead of bargaining with the union, and failed to respond to an information request from the union.”
Now, nearly six weeks after the charge was filed and four months into the lockout, the regional director of the NLRB in St. Louis has dismissed every single allegation of the union’s unfair labor practice charge.
The union has the right to appeal the regional director’s dismissal to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, DC.
- 2010 – Honeywell locks out union workers in Metropolis labor dispute
- 2010 – Locked Out Steelworkers to Demonstrate at Honeywell Corp. Shareholders Meeting