ANACORTES, Wash., March 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Steelworkers (USW) members at Tesoro's Anacortes, Wash., refinery overwhelmingly voted last night to give their negotiating committee the authorization to call for a strike if necessary. This is the second Tesoro location to give strike authorization. The Golden Eagle refinery in Martinez, Calif., was the first to do so two weeks ago.
"Our members are adamant about retaining our ability under the National Labor Relations Act to bargain over any benefit changes or eliminations the company wants to make," said USW Local 12-591 Unit Chair Mark Laurance. "We should not have to give up this fundamental worker right."
Six months after the April 2, 2010 explosion and fire at the Anacortes facility that ended up killing seven workers, the company announced it was changing the benefit package for active and retired employees. It unilaterally implemented these changes on Jan. 1, 2011 without bargaining first with the union. The union believes the company is trying to recoup the cost of the April 2 catastrophe at the expense of their employees' retirement security. Tesoro reduced the pension and 401(k) match, and eliminated retiree life insurance, retiree dental coverage and retiree medical care for anyone older than age 65 by 2014.
"We work in a dangerous environment and are exposed to all sorts of chemicals," Laurance said. "We work hard for this company and ensure it is profitable; the least Tesoro could do is ensure we have a secure retirement where we can have benefits that enable us to take care of ourselves after a lifetime of exposure to toxic substances."
Safety is another major concern because of the April 2 explosion and fire. The local has proposed items to improve safety and involve hourly workers in making the refinery safer.
The USW represents over 185 operations and maintenance workers at the 125,000- barrel-per-day Anacortes refinery. At Tesoro's five other refineries, except for the Kenai facility, the USW represents over 1,300 workers.
The USW represents over 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean who are employed in oil refining, pulp, paper and packaging, metals, rubber, chemicals, energy, government and the service sector.