Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why are some oil refinery workers striking?” you ask? Good question. (Besides, it beats answering any questions about edible versions of body parts. Mind you, we took that one on too even if the Google Adsense “gods” caused us to relocate the edition that answered the one question.)
For those of you happy with current gas prices, you might not have noticed that nine different plants across the country have been on strike since February 1. According to The Washington Post, this is “the first nationwide oil worker strike since 1980.”
Talks broke down this year. Some workers are now striking. Why?
One thing is certain, it is not about money. Lydia DePillis, online contributor to the WP, states:
“While incomes for many Americans have stagnated or even declined, refinery workers’ earnings have kept pace with inflation over the past decade, staying around $62,000 per year in current dollars, plus substantial health care and retirement benefits. Most of the workers at the Philadelphia plant had little college education, if any, and the most experienced can make $35 an hour.”
Jim Savage, the leader of United Steelworkers Local 10-1 at an oil refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told DePillis: “We do pretty well. This is about the best-paying job a guy like me is going to get.”
So if you have at least one union employee who appreciates his job, would there not be others across the US? Why go on strike?
Savage, who— as this goes to press — is not yet striking– has a couple possible answers to the question. Some union workers either have guts or they are incredibly foolish.
Savage told DePillis: “We picked a fight with the wealthiest, most powerful people in the history of the world. So we’re either very courageous, or the stupidest people walking.”
Another possibility is that the majority of the workers who are striking are too young to recall the last general strike oil workers had. They have no appreciation or even knowledge of the many downsides of a real strike or any of the potential consequences.
They are also unaware of other less successful strikes such as the grocery workers strike a few years ago which had memberts confessing that they actually lost since the end result was that they basically only got what they would have gotten anyway without the prolonged strike.
DePillis notes that union “membership has sunk.” What? Yes, despite professions where membership is mandatory, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that last year “the union membership rate . . . was 11.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from 2013.”
In this case though, DePillis notes that these union members are striking because it can. The union has a grip on a “critical infrastructure” so the high-placed leaders are taking advantage of that and “are digging in.” She also believes “that the economy is finally recovering (which) “gives them more solid ground to stand on, since unions figure that companies have the margins to share a little extra.”
DePillis came across on e more possibility. She says “this is about safety. The union claims “there aren’t enough people working in the plants. . . and the companies work around industry standards to keep employees on the job more days in a row than they can handle without losing focus. “
Savage takes issue with how hard he works for his good-paying job. He says “I’ve never been so exhausted since they instituted a fatigue policy. “ He claims: “They wouldn’t have to work people like this if they were staffing refineries properly, and they’re just not.”
Why are some oil refinery workers striking? Now you know.
(Men without hats? Isn’t that against OSHA regulations?)
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