Workers in the News: Strikes at Oil Refineries

Steelworker strikes at oil refineries that began in California now expanded to two BP refineries in the midwest at  Whiting, IN, and Toledo, OH.  This is the first national strike of steelworkers since 1980.  Read the report on the strike from Crain’s Chicago Business.  To get the perspective of the Union, read an interview with workers at In These Times.

Note the reference to using “contractors” to do more work at the refineries.  “Independent contractors” are often temporary employees hired through agencies.  Though usually qualified to do the work, companies are not required to provide benefits or pay union wages to “contractors”.   One of the concerns about use of “contractors” is the compromise of safety.  Just this week, an oil refinery in Torrence, CA, exploded, killing 4 people.  Though the cause of the explosion is unknown, it raises questions and concerns about refinery safety and the use of “contractors.”

Does our Lenten Compact have something to say about this?

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One comment

  1. Yes, I believe our Lenten compact means supporting people like these oil workers. They are fighting for safety on the job and to stop union-busting. In other words, they are fighting to be treated with dignity, like human beings who were made in the image of God.
    It is true that energy workers’ unions have often either denied the significance of climate change or in some way pitted jobs against the environment. Years of “partnership” between unions and bosses, and the steady erosion of job security have conspired to bring about this sad situation.
    But there are signs of hope. The union representing tar sands workers in British Columbia has joined the movement against the Keystone XL pipeline, the fruit of decades of work by union activists who are also concerned about the environment.
    We should not overestimate the potential, and we should be very aware of the roadblocks in the way, but this strike does open up some possibilities for environmentalists to build bridges with oil workers. And I believe workers in the energy sector will be the most important players in any movement to restructure our energy industry sustainably. Imagine a national strike by oil, coal, and natural gas workers demanding green jobs and an end to fossil fuel extraction! I know it’s a long way off, but as they say “keep your eyes on the prize”.

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