By: Sid Spahn
On Monday, March 22, 500 unionized workers at the Chevron refinery in Richmond went on the largest labor strike in California in 7 years. This strike started over safety concerns, as well as salary increases to keep up with rising inflation in California.
After Chevron and the United Steelworkers Union failed to reach a contract agreement, some 500 individuals began striking at 12:01am. This contract is one Chevron says they have been negotiating for months, and they believe the offered contract addresses union concerns. They have also stated concern for union demands that exceed their expectations for acceptable and reasonable demands.
The United Steelworkers Union (USW) has negotiated national agreements for oil workers’ wages and working conditions for fatigued and overworked staff, however local issues still need to be addressed by individual “bargaining units.”
The local representative, B.K. White, claims that the Richmond Chevron has failed to address concerns of worker fatigue and understaffing. He says that due to understaffing and low pay, workers feel “obligated to come in and work as many as 70 hours a week to make ends meet.”
Part of the negotiation was an offer of a 2.5% pay increase, which was rejected by the USW in favor of a 5% pay increase to keep up with California inflation.
This refinery produces gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, and lubricating oils, and while operations are continuing now, there could be a serious halt in operations, possibly affecting already rising gas prices. However, this halt doesn’t seem likely, as the main Chevron based in San Ramon, CA has stated they plan to bring in trained workers to replace the hundreds on strike.
In a statement released by Chevron, they stated they are “fully prepared to continue normal operations” and “anticipate no issues in maintaining a reliable supply of products to the market,”