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The [Superman] memorial is a fitting backdrop for the contentious labor dispute that has shaken Metropolis - the self-proclaimed hometown of Superman, which sits on the Ohio River at the southern edge of Illinois. Many workers believe that the plant contributed to their fellow employees' illnesses, which is a central reason the union is refusing to accept the plant operator's plan to reduce pensions for newly hired workers and health benefits for retirees.
On June 28, Honeywell, the plant operator, locked out its 220 union employees after negotiations stalled, accusing the union of refusing to give the company 24 hours' notice of a strike. The union has picketed ever since.
Honeywell rejects the notion that its facility makes workers more susceptible to cancer and maintains that its labor proposal would raise the average overall salary for employees. The company says that is fair given that the plant, which converts milled uranium into uranium hexafluoride for nuclear reactors, is projected to lose $20 million this year.
In Metropolis, a blue-collar community of 6,500, Clark Kent has long been the main draw. A 15-foot tall Superman keeps solemn watch outside the county courthouse, and the local newspaper is called The Metropolis Planet. The Chamber of Commerce used to hand out packets of "kryptonite" candy to children.
But this summer everyone is concerned about uranium, not kryptonite.
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