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Vol. 79/No. 17      May 11, 2015

Oil strike for safety continues
against four holdout refineries

TOLEDO, Ohio — “We are striking for safety and against the elimination and combination of jobs,” said Brandy Hoffman, a striking member of United Steelworkers Local 1-346 at the BP-Husky refinery here, while attending a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the union hall April 26.

USW members at the Toledo refinery and the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, have been on strike since Feb. 8 and are holding strong.

Steelworkers at two refineries in Texas — LyondellBasell in Pasadena and Marathon’s Galveston Bay facility in Texas City — also remain on strike, after rejecting “last, best and final” contracts from bosses there. They have been out since Feb. 1.

Previously 7,000 oil workers had been on strike at 15 facilities. Most companies signed a pattern agreement negotiated with Shell Oil, but these four refinery bosses refused, pushing for cuts.

“I started out on one job and soon was working five different ones on rotation,” said Hoffman. “It takes a long time to learn one job. What if you don’t know which valve to turn if there is an abnormal situation?”

Hoffman said she initially supported going to 12-hour shifts in 2010. “But had I known what it would lead to I would have voted it down.”

Bob Hicks, another member of Local 1-346, told the Militant at the dinner that the company’s fatigue policy says the boss only has to let you off two days within a 21-day period. “So they can work you 19 days straight, 12 to 16 hours a day. They force you to work. It happens all of the time.”

“There used to be 200 maintenance workers,” said Hicks, who has worked in maintenance for five years. “Today we are less than 70 USW members, the rest were replaced with contractors.”

In a letter to Local 1-346 members, the union said that the company proposes eliminating current maintenance positions and other jobs and giving management discretion on filling vacancies and changing jobs and assignments.

While walking the picket line, Matt Seedorf said his weekly picket shift will end soon. “I just got a temporary job planting test plots with corn and soybean seeds from Sandusky, Ohio, to South Bend, Indiana. I’ll be making less than half of what I used to make” at BP-Husky.

“The company wants more contractors,” he said. “We’re rebuilding hydrogen compressors, dangerous work that needs to be done by the same workers instead of different people every time.”
Related articles:
LA port truckers strike, demand union recognition
On the Picket Line
Why winning higher pay doesnít cause prices to rise
Ukraine miners march for jobs, pay ó met with govít slanders  
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