USW Building International Solidarity

Steelworkers President Seeks Meeting with Shell CEO

global support

USW members and leaders are meeting with allies in Europe this week, building solidarity with other global unions as the USW’s oil industry unfair labor practice (ULP) strike enters its second week.

USW International President Leo W. Gerard has also requested a meeting with the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, headquartered in the Netherlands, which is leading negotiations on behalf of the oil companies. The company has yet to respond to Gerard’s request.

“In the past, Shell has been a negotiating partner that helped achieve a settlement, and we hope that will remain the case,” Gerard said. “Our goal is bargain an agreement that is fair to both sides.”

More than 5,000 USW members are on a ULP strike at 11 U.S. refineries owned by Shell, Tesoro, BP, Marathon and LyondellBasell. The workers are protesting the oil companies’ serious unfair labor practices, including their refusal to negotiate over mandatory subjects, undue delays in providing information, impeded bargaining, and threats issued to workers if they joined the ULP strike.

Shell has so far failed to offer meaningful proposals to address the union’s safety concerns.

In London, Workers Uniting, an international labor union representing more than two million workers in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States, today passed a resolution saluting the USW’s oil workers, who began the ULP strike on Feb. 1.

In addition to the meetings with Workers Uniting and Unite and the proposed meeting with Shell, a delegation of striking USW members are in the Netherlands today through Wednesday, meeting and holding solidarity events with members of the FNV oil workers union at Shell and LyondellBasell.

Oil companies are among the most profitable corporations on the planet, yet their refineries continue to be far too dangerous for workers and the surrounding communities. In the past 8 years, there have been 349 reported refinery fires, which have resulted in fatalities, catastrophic injuries and explosions. Too often, these incidents are a result of management’s failure to follow established safety practices, fatigue due to mandatory overtime, and use of inexperienced contract employees.

 “This work stoppage is about the companies’ violations of our bargaining rights, and our rights to support our union and our bargaining committees,” said USW International Vice President Gary Beevers, who heads the USW’s oil bargaining program.

“We need to address the issues of onerous overtime; unsafe staffing levels; dangerous conditions the industry continues to ignore; the daily occurrences of fires, emissions, leaks and explosions that threaten local communities without the industry doing much about it; the industry’s refusal to make opportunities for workers in the trade crafts; the flagrant contracting out that impacts health and safety on the job; and the erosion of our workplace, where qualified and experienced union workers are replaced by contractors when they leave or retire.”

The resolution Workers Uniting passed today reads, in part: “Workers Uniting commends the oil workers unions around the world that have expressed their solidarity with the USW strikers, and calls on them to redouble their efforts to confront the assault of global oil corporations on the rights of refinery workers.  An injury to one is an injury to all.”

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