Work stoppage set for unionized refinery workers in Texas, California: Will Obama intervene?

Negotiations over a new labor contract between refinery workers in the United Steelworkers Union (USW) and Shell Oil Co. broke down before midnight Feb. 1 thus forcing the workers to go on strike.

The Associated Press (AP) reported on Feb. 1 that the union asked about 3,800 workers at nine refineries mostly in Texas and California to strike. The call for a strike happened after the USW, rejected Shell’s fourth contract offer. The union said Shell refused to provide a counter offer and that the company’s representatives had left the bargaining table.

The union called for a strike at the Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Texas, the Shell Deer Park Refinery in Deer Park, Texas, and the Tesoro Carson Refinery in Carson, Calif., among other locations. The AP reported that USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said the remaining sites not targeted for a strike will operate under contract extensions that renew every 24 hours until one side in the negotiations decides that they have reached an impasse.

“We had no choice but to give notice of a work stoppage,” USW International President Leo W. Gerard said in a statement. A Shell representative said in an email that the company remains “committed to resolving our differences with USW at the negotiating table to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement

Hancock said the union wants a three-year contract and is focused on health care costs, safety, the use of contractors and staffing concerns, as well as wages.

United Steelworkers represents about 30,000 workers at refineries, terminals, petrochemical plants and pipelines across the country. Shell is serving as the lead company in national oil bargaining talks with the union. Any agreement reached between the union and Shell would then be used as a pattern for negotiations involving local unions.

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