Union Shuts Down Final Remaining Oil Refinery Strike In the US
Almost 5 months after 1000’s of oil refinery workers in the United States went out on strike, the United Steelworkers (USW) union brought the struggle to an end Tuesday, pushing via a sellout agreement on 1,200 Marathon Petroleum workers in Galveston, Texas.
The Houston-space staff were the final to carry out towards the demands of the global energy giants to maintain dangerously high ranges of compelled additional time, outsource jobs to lower-paid contractors and further erode the living requirements of the industry’s 30,000 USW-organized employees.
Galveston employees had previously voted down two contracts brought by USW Native thirteen-1, which included even more draconian terms than these accepted by the USW within the national sample-setting agreement with Shell Oil in March. Marathon sought to unwind current safety provisions enacted after a catastrophic 2005 explosion at the then-BP owned Galveston refinery that killed 15 staff and injured 170 others. The corporate also demanded that Marathon workers—already facing exhaustion from overwork—be on-call virtually around the clock and return to work within an hour of being called.
USW Worldwide and local officials would not reveal the details of the settlement, concluded underneath the supervision of a nationwide mediator, saying only that a “compromise” had been reached.
The tip of the strike by the Texas staff follows the sellout agreement reached by USW Native 1-364 at the refinery jointly owned by BP and Husky in Oregon, Ohio, simply exterior of Toledo. The USW referred to as off a strike by 350 employees, which began on February 8, after accepting an “unconditional return to work” with no contract on Might 27. Dan Voorhees, the USW District 1 worldwide workers representative, called the abject surrender “a strategic decision on the part of the union.”
A number of days later, the union reached an agreement with BP Husky. Jeff Steigauf, the refinery’s human assets manager, boasted that the corporate had achieved its objective of “an settlement that lays the groundwork for a aggressive enterprise, secure operations, good jobs, and economic opportunity for years to come back.”
Though the top 5 oil firms made $ninety billion in earnings in 2014, the USW accepted a pattern agreement with Shell that included a meager 12 percent wage increase over 4 years, which might be more than chewed up by giant co-pays for well being care prices. The agreement includes guarantees that the companies will hold “discussions” with the union on outsourcing, staffing ranges and compelled overtime.
Such assurances will do nothing to improve circumstances for employees in an trade where fires or explosions occur each eight days on average. They will, nonetheless, provide extra opportunities for USW officials who have long used positions on varied “labor-management” bodies to climb the profession ladder into company management.
The miserable consequence of this struggle was not inevitable. Oil refinery workers enjoyed widespread help for their battle. At the same time, there might hardly have been a more despised enemy than the multi-billion greenback us petroleum equipment oil conglomerates, that are extensively recognized with value gouging, engineering criminal wars within the Middle East and polluting the planet with impunity.
A strike that shut down the refinery phase of the business would have had an instantaneous influence on the underside line of the companies. Going through a fall in crude prices, the oil giants are dependent on the refinery sector to take care of profits and payoffs to their Wall Street investors.
The strike was one signal of growing working class opposition in the US and internationally, including struggles by West Coast dockworkers, Los Angeles teachers, North Sea oil rig employees and others. The potential to expand the strike to non-union staff was underscored by the one-day wildcat strike of 1,200 contract staff at a Louisiana fuel terminal, simply days earlier than the union reached an agreement with Shell.
With staff suffering the longest interval of wage stagnation since the good Depression—amid document corporate income and share values—financial and political analysts repeatedly warned of a “wages push” that could undermine the Obama administration’s financial technique of lowering US workers to a cheap labor power.
The defeat of the strike was not due to any lack of self-sacrifice by employees who maintained picket strains for months, including throughout the freezing winter. The trigger lies on the door of the USW and the AFL-CIO, which proved to be the largest obstacles to unifying the working class.
The deliberate isolation and strangling of the strike was not just the result of the cowardice and corruption of the union bureaucracy, of which there is plenty. Above all, it flowed from the political alliance of the USW and the AFL-CIO with the Obama administration and the Democrats. That is the political type of the unions’ absolute protection of the revenue wants of American capitalism. This anti-working class alliance is highlighted by the truth that USW President Leo Gerard sits with chief executives from Dow Chemical, Alcoa, Caterpillar and different Fortune 500 companies on Obama’s corporate competitiveness board.
From the beginning, the USW deliberately sabotaged the battle, calling a token strike at only 15 of the sixty three US refineries it organizes, involving 7,000, or less than a quarter, of USW members within the business. Whilst these refineries operated with strikebreakers, the USW ordered members to remain on the job at ExxonMobil, Chevron and other corporations. So as to add insult to injury, the USW refused to offer advantages from its half-billion greenback strike fund, in an effort to starve strikers into submission.
With rising calls for from staff for a nationwide strike, USW bargaining crew member Jim Savage told BP workers in Whiting, Indiana that the union had to limit the walkout in an effort to “keep the government from interfering with this labor dispute.” In different words, the chief concern of the USW and the AFL-CIO was to stop the wrestle from creating us petroleum equipment right into a battle with the Democratic Occasion and the Obama administration.
For its part, the White House urged the oil companies and the USW “to resolve their differences utilizing the time-examined means of collective bargaining.” Moderately than circumventing the unions—and threatening to unleash a rebellion that could turn into the catalyst for a far wider movement of the working class towards social inequality—Obama urged the oil executives to make the most of the “time-tested” treachery of the USW to put on down, starve out and defeat the strike.
From the outset of the wrestle, the Socialist Equality Social gathering and the WSWS called on hanging workers to ascertain rank-and-file motion committees to expand the strike. “If this wrestle is to not be remoted, strangled and led to defeat, oil workers must take issues into their very own palms,” we warned in a March three assertion, “The way ahead for oil workers.”
Whereas the unions supposed to do everything to dam a political confrontation with the Obama administration, the SEP wrote: “This is precisely what’s required. A spokesman of the monetary aristocracy, Obama has overseen the greatest switch of wealth from the bottom to the highest in American historical past.” The only approach to interrupt dictatorial hold over society by the monetary aristocracy, the SEP insisted, was “by mobilizing the working class in a robust revolutionary motion that’s aimed toward placing political power in the palms of the vast majority of the population—the plenty of working people whose labor within the refineries, factories, offices, colleges and hospitals produce society’s wealth.”
The betrayal of the strike confirms these warnings. If future struggles are to not suffer the identical destiny, workers should draw the political lessons of the 2015 oil workers’ strike and make the choice to construct the Socialist Equality Get together because the revolutionary management of the working class.
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