Five years ago, housing prices across the country were soaring. Banks gave loans to homeowners who couldn’t afford them and then sold the loans as investment grade securities on the open market. Investment bankers made billions. Ordinary families didn’t see a huge increase in their wages, but many saw large bumps in their housing costs. The bankers were building a house of cards and they were getting rich while the rest of us were getting left behind.
Then in 2008, that house of cards came crashing down and crushed all of us. The bad loans the big banks wrote started to fail and the housing market collapsed. Millions of families lost their homes to foreclosure, and still today, millions of other families owe the bank more than their homes are worth. As bank after bank failed, U.S. taxpayers scraped together money to bail them out. The 1% failed and the 99% got stuck paying.
At my company, Tesoro, we’ve got a similar story.
At Tesoro, we refine oil and make gasoline, diesel fuels, jet fuel and other petroleum products. Oil refining is one of the most dangerous industries on the planet and refinery workers are eight times more likely to die at work than other workers. We saw some simple ways that companies could make our refineries safer for workers and our community. In 2009, our union went to the oil industry to ask for improvements to health and safety in oil refineries. But the industry refused to make any substantial changes.
On Good Friday in 2010, there was a serious explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington. Three workers died on the spot and four more died at the hospital in the following days. Workers lost their lives and the company lost more than $35 million in fines, refinery repairs and down time.
A few months later, the company figured out a way to recoup the money they lost in Anacortes. They decided to make workers pay for their mistakes. They slashed our pensions and retirement security benefits. Meanwhile, the company paid our CEO, Greg Goff, an astonishing $8.8 million dollars last year. And now we’re bargaining new labor agreements with the company at my refinery, the chemical plant here in Martinez and at three other locations across the country, and they want us to agree to contractual provisions that would allow management to cut other benefits without even bargaining with our union.
We think we’ve already paid enough for the bosses’ mistakes and we don’t think we should have to pay anymore. Workers at my refinery in Martinez have voted to reject the company’s outrageous contract offer. So have workers in Anacortes, WA, and Mandan, ND. At many locations, we’re starting to take the necessary steps to call a strike if we need to.
We are committed to bargaining in good faith and we certainly don’t want to put our families through the hardship of a strike. But we can’t continue to let this company force us to pay for management’s mistakes and we can’t allow the 1% to continue to force the 99% to pay for their mistakes.
To stay up to date on our fight for justice at Tesoro, follow us at facebook.com/OilBargaining, on Twitter at @USWOilWorkers, or check out our website www.OilBargaining.org.
Unit Chair at Local 5, Tesoro
To submit a blog to Free Speech Zone, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep it to 250 words or fewer. You MUST include your full name, hometown, and state. You may attach a photograph of yourself. Please include a phone number. This WILL NOT be published. Posting any given blog is within the discretion of the USW. No blog using foul language (this is a family site), false information (we don’t want to get sued), or unnecessary personal attacks (again, we don’t want to get sued) will be used. Wait a reasonable period of time, then blog again! This is a Free Speech Zone.
Posted April 6, 2012 at 8:00 am, in Free Speech Zone