A lot of attention recently has been focused on one of President Obama's top advisors on Social Security - Former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) after he described Social Security as being "a milk cow with 310 million tits". Perhaps attention should be focused instead on a much more sinister one of President Obama's personal appointments to serve on his deficit commission.
Meet Honeywell CEO David Cote - the most dangerous man in America. David Cote is so dangerous that he's willing to risk nuclear fallout in order to demand that uranium workers agree to cutting their retiree health care and pension plans.
Honeywell runs the only conversion facility in the world that can distill pure uranium in Metropolis, Illinois. On June 28th, Honeywell locked out its union workers during contract negotiations because the union, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7-669, refused to accept the company proposal to eliminate retiree health care and pension plans for new hires and increase workers' out of pocket health care to $8,500 a year. Good health care coverage for retirees is especially important to uranium workers who suffer rates of cancer ten times higher than the general public due to their daily interaction with radioactive material; thus the workers refused to give in to demands to cut their retiree health care coverage entirely.
In a major concession, however, the Uranium workers' union refused to go on strike in the interests of keeping the plant safe and agreed to continue working under an extension of their current contract. Honeywell, which is already making record profits, decided they could make even more if they played hardball with their workers and risked a nuclear disaster.
So Honeywell locked out the local uranium workers with decades of experience operating the Metropolis uranium enrichment facility. Instead, Honeywell hired hastily trained "scabs" (replacement workers) to run the plant. Honeywell uranium worker John Paul Smith described the plan to run the plant on poorly trained scab labor as "a serious gamble." The Metropolis uranium plant is the only uranium enrichment facility in the world that can distill uranium and it would be impossible to train workers fully on how to run such a complex facility.
"Basically, Honeywell CEO David Cote has a gun to the head of the local community," said Mark Dudzic, who has decades of experience negotiating with the nuclear industry as a long time organizer with the old Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW). One local resident Jerry Baird described the anxiety the community is feeling. "If they remember everything, it'll probably run. If they don't, they'll probably kill us all."
"Honeywell CEO David Cote is subtly threatening the lives of an entire community in order to increase Honeywell's profits," said Dudzic. When the mafia threatens people this way, the FBI calls it extortion; when a corporation does it, it gets called labor relations.
Cote's threats to our nation's security don't just stop there.
Honeywell does billions of dollars of business with the Pentagon as a military contractor. As a member of the Deficit Commission, it is Honeywell CEO David Cotes' role to make sure that the commission doesn't examine cutting waste in the military contracting process that Honeywell benefits from.
This despite a recent study by a bipartisan commission showed that $1 trillion could be cut easily from the defense budget. A different report by the House Armed Services Defense Acquisition Reform Panel this spring showed that the military contract process has so little oversight and is so wasteful that it's actually harmful to our national security. Cote has instead pushed back against calls by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to cut waste in the military by suggesting instead that the military cut the pay of its troops overseas (many of whom are already relying on food stamps) and make them pay for their own health care.
Honeywell CEO David Cote's decision-making process personifies the short-sighted mentality of those calling for cutting Social Security. The families of the 52 million Social Security beneficiaries, whose benefits would be cut, would be forced to take money out of the economy and financially provide for their loved ones. Men like Honeywell CEO David Cote are so dangerously short-sighted that they are willing to risk things like an economic recession, or nuclear fallout that hurt everyone, even big corporations, over the long run.
Honeywell CEO David Cote was the President's appointment to serve on the Deficit Commission, but a man who would threaten an entire town with nuclear annihilation in the name of corporate profits has no place deciding Social Security's fate.
Honeywell CEO David Cotes belongs on an episode of the Sopranos, not the President's Deficit Commission.
Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who writes for Campaign for America's Future. He previously worked for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE).