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David Cote Is Second Deficit Commission Member To Come Under Fire


First Posted: 09/02/10 05:27 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:30 PM ET

A second member of the deficit commission is coming under fire from an ally of President Obama, as the Steelworker Organization of Active Retirees is pressing him to remove Honeywell CEO David Cote from the panel, charging that his ongoing lockout of workers makes him unfit to sit on the commission.

To which the casual reader might reply: Wait, the CEO of Honeywell is on a commission debating cuts to Medicare and Social Security? The same CEO whose company benefits from billions in defense contracts?

It may all sound like something ripped from the pages of a Howard Zinn history book, but the specific offense that has the steelworkers calling for his dismissal is related to a lockout at the company's Metropolis, Illinois uranium plant. Cote is attempting to cut the union's health benefits, but employees there argue that their exposure to carcinogens and toxic substances means that such insurance is necessary. Given the dangerous nature of the factory's work, the employees offered to continue working through the negotiations under the old contract, but Cote locked them out, replacing them with poorly trained temporary workers. Running the uranium distillery with temporary works is a major gamble, HuffPost labor blogger Mike Elk reported earlier this week.

That's not the kind of decision-making that should come from a member of a commission examining the federal budget, SOAR President C.L. Entrekin and Director James Centner wrote in the letter to Obama, provided to HuffPost.

"A profitable company's demands that workers and retirees relinquish health benefits and its locking out workers who offered to continue demonstrate that its CEO, David Cote, is out of touch with mainstream America and has absolutely no compassion for his fellow man," they wrote. "Anyone who would force their workers onto the streets in these times of economic uncertainty cannot competently or justly serve on a Commission charged with issuing recommendations that may impact our nation's citizens for decades."

Spokespersons for Honeywell and the commission weren't immediately available to comment.

UPDATE: "The letter fundamentally misrepresents the facts of the company's current labor negotiations in Metropolis. We will not respond to specific claims it makes," Honeywell spokeswoman Jane Van Etten tells HuffPost.

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