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Downstate uranium plant fuels Social Security debate

A labor conflict at a downstate uranium plant is fueling calls from Social Security supporters for removal of a second member of the President’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

As noted here last week, the commission’s co-chair, former Senator Alan Simpson, has come under fire for insulting Social Security supporters.

David Cote

Now the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees is calling on President Obama to remove Honeywell CEO David Cote from the commission, citing the company’s lockout of 230 workers at a uranium processing plant in Metropolis, Illinois.

Members of USW Local 7-669 were locked out June 28 after they rejected a contract proposal from Honeywell that would eliminate health care for retirees and raise employee’s out-of-pocket healthcare maximum to $8,500.

The union offered to continue operating the plant while negotiations were underway, particularly out of safety concerns, according to Huffington Post. The company locked out the union employees, the New York Times reported.

“Cote is proposing to end health insurance for retirees who were for years exposed on the job to hazardous materials, including substances listed as carcinogens by the Department of Energy,” SOAR wrote to President Obama (pdf) last week.  “Cote’s proposal to terminate their health insurance is cruel and inhuman.”

In June, Honeywell reported second-quarter profits of $468 million, a 4 percent increase that exceeded expectations.  “The recovery is happening,” Cote said at the time, according to Market Watch.

As CEO of a major military contractor, with billions of dollars in defense contracts, Cote’s role on the deficit commission is to fight off attempts to reduce spending on major weapons system.  According to Talking Points Memo, he has “pushed back” against efforts to examine redundancy and cost overruns in weapons programs.

Instead he has called for freezing pay for service members and charging them for their health coverage, according to TPM.

Meanwhile, a veterans group joined calls for Simpson’s removal after he “blamed disabled veterans for the country’s fiscal situation,” singling out veterans receiving disability for Agent Orange-linked ailments.

Vote Vets joined groups ranging from OWL to NOW to the AFL-CIO to the Alliance of Retired Americans, who called on Obama to remove Simpson following insulting comments to other Social Security supporters.  As TPM details, Simpson is a long-time proponent of cutting Social Security.

“Don’t expect major media coverage” of the “Senator Trash Mouth” contretemps, writes William Greider at the Nation.  “The prestige newspapers are on board for this deal,” he writes, as “leading newspapers…dutifully repeat the establishment’s falsehoods and distortions about Social Security.”

Greider takes Matt Bai of the New York Times to task for some of the same arguments that Terry Savage trotted out in the Sun-Times this weekend (that Social Security’s surplus has been swallowed up by the federal deficit); at Huffington Post, Robert Kuttner calls Bai’s column “dishonest.”

In the same issue of the Sun-Times, Francine Knowles‘ reporting on growing insecurity among those approaching retirement provides a reality check to Savage’s ideological fulminations – showing both the increased importance of Social Security, and the danger of turning it over to stockbrokers.

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Category: labor, seniors


2 Responses

  1. DyAnn Mitchell says:

    Please give me instructions on how I can help get David Cote
    out of Washington and Honeywell.
    This man is scarey… He should not lead anything but maybe
    himself out the door.

  2. Curtis says:

    You might start by writing the President and supporting the steelworker retirees demand that he be removed from the deficit commission.

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