United Steelworkers Union Strikes at Major U.S. Oil Refineries
United Steelworkers union leaders asked union workers at nine U.S. oil refineries and chemical plants to stop working after a national contract covering dozens of oil facilities expired at midnight Sunday.
This is the biggest strike for the union since 1980. An all-out work stoppage would impact 64 percent of oil production in the U.S.
Rep. Tom Price explained on "Sunday Morning Futures" today that the union is calling for more jobs and more job security.
Price said that unions are particularly upset about President Obama's veto threat after the House and Senate passed the Keystone Pipeline bill in a bipartisan way.
"They're upset about an administration that doesn't recognize that more energy and more jobs for this country are good things," Price said. "That's what we want to do. We want the American people, we call on the American people to let the president know that the kinds of policies that the House and Senate are pushing through right now in a bipartisan way are the kinds of things that'll get this country back on track and get this economy rolling in a healthy way."
On "Fox and Friends Weekend" this morning, Maria Bartiromo explained that the U.S. is in a moment in time when oil prices are falling quickly - down 55 percent in the last seven months - so there is little security for oil workers.
She explained that the downside to falling oil prices is a dampening of the shale gas revolution.
"They're seeing lower revenue, lower product, lower production, and as a result, they are cutting jobs. The unions obviously do not like that."
Negotiations between U.S. refiners and the union failed to reach a deal by a 12:01 a.m. Sunday deadline. USW workers have been instructed to finish their shifts and then leave nine refineries from Houston, Texas to the Los Angeles, Calif.
The union has been trying to negotiate a new three-year agreement that addresses industry-wide wage increases, safety conditions and staffing issues. The deal would form the baseline for additional talks between companies and local unions, and cover 30,000 workers at 230 refineries, oil terminals, pipelines, and petrochemical plants.
USW represents workers at 65 fuel-making plants around the U.S. which it says account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s refining capacity.
USW said the plants where workers will strike include: LyondellBasell Industries ’ plant in Houston, Texas; Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s complex in Deer Park, Texas; Marathon Petroleum Corp. ’s sites in Galveston, Texas City and Catlettsburg, Ky; and three Tesoro facilities in Washington and southern California.
Plant operators couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
In the final days of negotiations, the union rejected multiple offers from Shell, which led negotiations on behalf of U.S. refinery operators. Union officials pointed to dangerous conditions within the plants as well as what they described as burdensome and unsafe overtime and staffing practices.
“Shell refused to provide us with a counteroffer and left the bargaining table,” said USW International President Leo Gerard. “We had no choice but to give notice of a work stoppage.”
Shell couldn't immediately be reached for comment. A company spokesman said late Saturday that it would operating its Deer Park plants under a strike contingency plan and said it was committed to reaching an agreement.
Companies said other plants had received strike notices. Exxon Mobil Corp., which operates a massive refining complex in Beaumont, Texas, confirmed late Saturday the union warned that workers could walk out first thing Sunday. Tesoro said it had received a similar notice at its Mandan, N.D. refinery. The company previously said it would keep operating safely with backup workers and management who aren’t union in the case of a strike. Other firms echoed a similar message.
Aside from the nine facilities listed in the USW’s announcement, other U.S. refineries will continue operating under a rolling 24-hour contract extension, the union said.