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USW workers may strike Tesoro over refinery safety, benefits

SAN ANTONIO — Fifteen United Steelworkers (USW) members from Tesoro refineries attended the Tesoro shareholder meeting May 3 to ask why the company was not bargaining a fair contract with the union. Afterward, more than 75 USW members from around the country — including representatives of the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash. — and their supporters marched and chanted for more than an hour.

Inside the shareholder meeting, USW members attempted to raise questions about Tesoro’s labor relations practices and refinery safety, but CEO Greg Goff took no questions from shareholders and ended the meeting after 12 minutes.

“He obviously didn’t want to address the problems the company is creating by not negotiating fairly,” said USW Local 5 member Jeff Clark, from the Golden Eagle (Martinez, Calif.) refinery.

In a separate question and answer session after the meeting, USW Local 12-591 President Steve Garey from Anacortes, Wash., called on management to do the right thing at the bargaining table in order to avert a strike.

“We do not want a strike and we have been trying to avoid a strike, but do not confuse our patience with fear. If we do not achieve a reasonable agreement soon, there will be a strike,” Garey said. “Greg Goff, do the right thing for us and for your shareholders and please direct your representatives to come to the table with our union, ready to bargain fair labor agreements.”

A full copy of Steve Garey’s statement can be found HERE.

Outside, USW members from around the country held a loud rally adjacent to the company’s headquarters. The rally started with USW activists unfurling a 250-square-foot banner that said, “Tesoro: We won’t pay for your mistakes.”

“Seven of our co-workers died as a result of an explosion and fire at the Anacortes refinery on Good Friday April 2, 2010. Three months later Tesoro announced it was cutting or eliminating benefits unilaterally,” said USW Local 12-591 unit chair Mark Laurance, who works at the Anacortes facility. “When the bargaining committee at the Kapolei, Hawaii, refinery asked CEO Greg Goff what the money saved from the benefit cuts would be used for, he said it would be to repair the Anacortes facility and honor an executive contract. Management should be paying for its mistakes in process safety and its own perks and compensation, not us.”

Process safety relates to equipment reliability, inspection and testing and preventative maintenance, including stopping discharges of volatile materials into the air and ground.

Tesoro wants its workers to give up their legal right to bargain over benefit changes during the term of the new agreement.

Javier Montoya, USW Local 10 president at the Mandan, N.D., refinery said: “All the company has to do is negotiate with us and together we can find solutions if cuts have to be made. Without this right to bargain, we are subject to whatever the company wants to do — whether it’s to reduce our benefits or eliminate them entirely.”

Tesoro workers also are seeking pension security, fair calculation of vacation time, and restoration of benefits taken away unilaterally by the company.

Contracts at Tesoro’s Anacortes, Mandan and Martinez refineries expired Jan. 31, 2012, and workers have been working under a contract extension. The Tesoro Wilmington, Calif., (Los Angeles) refinery contract expired April 30, 2012. The USW represents more than 1,000 workers at these four refineries that represent 78% of Tesoro’s refining capacity.

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. Learn more at

See more photos of the San Antonio action here.

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