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Louisiana Oil Refinery Workers Join Nationwide Strike

Jacinta Quesada/FEMA
Wikimedia Commons

This weekend, Louisiana workers joined the largest national oil refinery strike in over 30 years. 1,350 employees from the Motiva refineries in Convent and Norco, Louisiana, joined fellow members of the United Steelworkers union in asking the industry to change the current safety requirements. 

The last major oil refinery strike in the U.S. was centered around wages and benefit packages, but this time it’s different. "This is an issue about the value that is placed on life, if you will," says Bob Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois. "When you get disputes like this in labor management they can generate really deep and long and bitter fights. They almost become wars around powerful ideas, and here the idea is ‘what is the value of the life of a refinery worker worth?'"

Professor Bruno predicts the strike will continue to spread across the country until both parties agree on new terms. The strike began February 1, largely in Texas and California, to address staffing levels, hours, and place limits on the use of contractors to replace union members.

Shell is leading the negotiations, and the company has made seven different offers, all rejected by USW.

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