Patrick Young from the United Steelworkers, sends us this.
Three years ago, members of the United Steelworkers (USW) went to the bargaining table with the big oil companies to negotiate changes to health and safety programs at oil refineries that would keep workers safe. Across the board, the industry said, “No.” They weren’t interested in bargaining meaningful and enforceable improvements to refinery safety.
In the next three years, 18 oil workers died on the job, dozens of others suffered life-altering injuries and countless others have likely suffered from chronic occupational diseases due to work-related
exposures. It’s become pretty apparent that health and safety in the oil sector is out of control.
This month, the 30,000 members of the USW in the oil sector are returning to the bargaining table with the oil industry. They’re not willing to let another 18 workers die on the job.
Oil workers are demanding some small changes that won’t cost the companies much at all, but they’ll go a long way in keeping workers and refinery communities safe. They’re asking for the right to stop unsafe work, safe staffing levels at refineries, a safety representative who is responsible for ensuring that refineries are safe, and that the companies properly inspect and maintain oil refineries and
Union leaders and members know that to win these improvements at the bargaining table, we need support from refinery communities and consumers. So on Jan, 21, members of the USW took to the streets across the country to visit gas stations to talk to drivers and community members about safety issues in oil refineries.
Oil workers in 20 communities across the country visited more than 50 gas stations to talk with consumers in refinery communities about issues that impact everyone.
“People need to buy gas, people need to sell gas,” said Gary Beevers, the Steelworkers’ International Vice President for Oil Bargaining.
Most of these gas stations are owned by small business owners, people in our communities. We don’t want to hurt them, we want to get the word out about refinery safety and the gas pump is a great place to talk to people about safety.
Workers joined actions in Texas, Louisiana Utah, Illinois, Washington, California, Pennsylvania and other areas across the country.
USW members also took their message directly to top management at the big oil companies. USW
Local 5, which represents refinery workers at the Chevron, Shell, and Tesoro refineries in the San Francisco Bay Area, held a rally at Chevron’s corporate headquarters in San Ramon, Calif. They were joined by California State Senator Loni Hancock and members of the Richmond community—where Chevron’s Bay Area refinery is located.
Steelworkers emphasized that refinery safety isn’t just an issue that impacts only workers–it’s an issue that affects the entire community. BK White, unit chairman at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, said:
When these companies operate our refineries unsafely, everybody’s at risk—refinery workers and our communities. We know that a serious explosion at one of these facilities could devastate an entire community.
Most union agreements between the big oil companies and the Steelworkers are set to expire at 12:01 am Feb. 1. Over the next two weeks, USW members across the oil sector will be working hard to bargain a fair agreement that will help to keep workers and their community safe.