|Photo by Max Burkhalter|
|Most of the striking USW members went back to work last week, but some are still in contract negotiations. |
The national United Steelworkers oil refinery strike technically ended weeks ago, but the local union members at LyondellBasell and Marathon are still grappling with company officials over their local contracts.
The strike started back in February after Royal Dutch Shell officials failed to negotiate a national pattern contract that satisfied the national arm of the United Steelworkers, which ultimately called a strike. More than 6,000 workers from 15 plants, including 12 oil refineries, were called out on strike. Houston-area refinery workers from Shell Deer Park, LyondellBasell and Marathon's Galveston Refinery in Texas City were some of the first union members pulled out. They walked away from their paychecks and benefits, while USW national officials continued to struggle to make a deal with Shell.
From there, USW, negotiating for about 30,000 oil refinery workers, and Shell, negotiating for the oil companies, went on butting heads on a variety of issues, including contractors, fatigue standards and safety issues. It took more than a month to get the national contract -- the contract that all the local unions would model their local contracts on -- ironed out.
But anyone who thought that would be the most complicated part of the strike probably missed the fact that a national agreement meant that now the members of the local unions and the local company officials would have to sit down after weeks of animosity and picket lines and work out a local deal.More »