PITTSBURGH, March 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Steelworkers (USW) members at Tesoro's refineries are fighting to protect their right to bargain over mid-contract changes in their benefits and plan to reject the company's attempts to destroy their bargaining rights.
"Tesoro wants to be able to unilaterally change or eliminate the health care, pension and 401(k) plans and vacation policies," said USW International Vice President Gary Beevers, who heads the union's National Oil Bargaining Program.
"This is a perfect example of the 1% trying to deny the 99% their right to bargain and have a say in their workplace," Beevers added.
The Tesoro workers are also fighting for better safety provisions. At the Anacortes, Wash., refinery workers are especially concerned with improving safety because of the April 2010 explosion and fire there that ended up killing seven workers.
Six months after that catastrophe the company implemented benefit cuts and eliminated retiree life insurance, retiree dental coverage and retiree medical coverage for anyone above age 65 by 2014. Since Tesoro's announcement of the cuts, USW members have been fighting them by challenging the company's interpretation of their contracts and failure to bargain via the filing of unfair labor practice charges.
The USW represents over 1,300 workers at Tesoro's refineries in Martinez, Calif., Mandan, N. Dakota, Salt Lake City, Utah, Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Anacortes, Wash., and Wilmington, Calif.
Workers at all the USW-represented refineries, except for the Wilmington facility, voted in recent weeks to reject the company's offers and are working under 24-hour contract extensions. The contract for the Wilmington refinery expires April 30.
"Tesoro's attitude is that 'It's our way or the highway,'" Beevers said. "Their action is part of the bigger effort by Corporate America to roll back employee rights and benefits.
"Our members are engaged in good-faith bargaining, but Tesoro seems unwilling to reach a reasonable agreement on this important issue and appears determined to provoke a fight with our members and our union. If so, this is a fight that Tesoro will regret. Our members and union are prepared to stand up and fight back to protect our rights and our families," Beevers added.
USW has learned that should Tesoro provoke a strike, it plans to run some of its refineries during the work stoppage with some people who have little or no experience working on process units. This is a danger to the community as is the company's decision to postpone much needed turnarounds until sometime in 2013.
"This shows the public that Tesoro cares less about potential process unit breakdowns, which can be life-threatening and harmful to the environment," Beevers said.
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers employed in oil refining, pulp, paper and packaging, metals, rubber, chemicals, energy, government and the service sector.