Since May 1, about 650 Exxon workers have been locked out of a Beaumont, Texas refinery and packaging plant after contract negotiations between the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 13-243 and management stalled.
Fred Redmond, Secretary-Treasurer of AFL-CIO and International Vice President of the USW, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the lockout and the USW’s effort to reach an agreement.
He also spoke about negotiations between USW Local 8888 and Huntington Ingalls Industries on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement covering Newport News Shipbuilding employees.
Lastly, he discussed language in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that includes provisions of the Rich Trumka PRO Act, and the union friendly climate in Washington fostered by the Biden Administration.
As refinery lockout continues, USW works toward compromise
Prior to the Beaumont Refinery lockout, USW members offered to work without a contract. Management offered a proposal, which the USW rejected. Management responded by locking out workers and refusing to negotiate.
Employees from other Exxon locations were brought in to work at the refinery following the lockout, but it operates at only 50 percent capacity, Redmond said. The refinery is not able to sustain its orders and due to this, he believes the company will eventually come back to the table and work out a compromise.
USW in early contract talks with ship builder Huntington Ingalls Industries
USW Local 8888 represents 10,600 workers and is in early contract negotiations with Huntington Ingalls Industries on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to cover shipbuilders in Newport News. The current labor agreement expires in November.
As one of the world’s premier shipbuilders, Huntington Ingalls Industries makes enormous profits, Redmond said. Its operations look good and the company is flush with cash. Talks have been amicable, he added.
Union friendly climate in Washington is good for working families
Redmond explained how the changed political climate in Washington D.C. is more friendly to organized labor thanks to the Biden Administration. The administration has made a real commitment to working families from a political perspective, he said. The National Labor Relations Board was revamped in the interests of workers, who are feeling the effects of this administration in a positive way.
The landscape has changed and people need to rally behind this administration to get critical legislation passed, he added.
Pieces of the PRO Act are included in the reconciliation bill
Redmond is also encouraged by language in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which incorporates various provisions of the Rich Trumka PRO Act. For instance, it would prohibit employers from cracking down on the effort of workers to organize by establishing meaningful penalties.
Congress is currently negotiating the details of the bill. While Redmond does not think the bill will reach the level of worker protection he would like to see, he believes the labor movement will view passage of the reconciliation bill as progress.