Oil strikers march on Marathon Petroleum as strike expands

oil_0312Findlay, Ohio — Over 200 oil strikers and supporters demonstrated on Feb. 24 in Findlay, Ohio, where the Marathon Petroleum Company has its international headquarters. Despite harsh winds and near-zero temperatures, the crowd waited to begin the rally until a busload of Marathon strikers from Kentucky arrived. The delegation was delayed when one of two buses broke down.

The strike began Feb. 1 after negotiations between the United Steelworkers and oil industry representatives, led by Shell, broke down. The USW represents 30,000 oil workers in 230 facilities across the country. Initially, workers at nine refineries in Texas, California, Kentucky and Washington state walked out. On Feb. 7, the strike was expanded to two refineries in Indiana and Ohio.

Steelworkers District One Director Dave McCall, whose district represents all of Ohio, announced that workers at four more refineries — one in Texas and three in Louisiana — had joined the strike.

Representing the union’s National Oil Bargaining Policy Committee, which negotiates with the oil companies, Jim Savage explained the number one issue behind the strike: safety on the job. Staffing cuts and excessive overtime are putting workers and the community at risk, as evidenced by a horrific explosion at a refinery near Los Angeles and the fatalities of 27 USW oil workers in four years. Another issue is the high out-of-pocket health care costs that workers — in the most profitable industry in the U.S. economy — are saddled with. Savage spoke for the five members of the national negotiating team who had traveled to Findlay to attend the solidarity rally.

USW Local 719 President Dave Martin, who represents the Catlettsburg, Ky., refinery, thanked all of the supporters and reported that solidarity remains high on the picket line as the strike heads into its second month.

A large number of strikers from the BP refinery near Toledo, Ohio, attended the rally, along with Steelworkers and UAW members from Detroit and various parts of Ohio.

After the rally, a boisterous march circled Marathon’s corporate offices several times.