Industrial work is some of the most difficult and dangerous work in the U.S. The training and safety precautions needed to work in a safe manner are great, but some companies are not meeting their responsibility of providing a safe work environment.
Workers at one Marathon refinery were recently locked out after demonstrating a one-day strike. Teamsters Local 120 Chief Union Steward Dean Benson joined AWF Union Podcast to discuss the strike, the lockout, what the workers need to work safely and more.
Marathon refinery strike
Teamsters Local 120 represents some 200 members at the Marathon St. Paul Park refinery. These workers have been out since Jan. 21 after demonstrating a one-day strike. Benson said a letter was sent saying the workers would return following the strike. However, when they returned, their keycards were deactivated and police told them to leave or they would be considered trespassers.
Since the January strike, Local 120 has been negotiating for improved working conditions, against job cuts and against workload increases. Benson said wages have not been discussed and usually are not until the end because safety and conditions are the top priority.
Safety in a refinery
Benson explained how refinery work is dangerous. Workers encounter heights, dangerous chemicals, a highly combustible environment and more. Without proper training it is very easy to get hurt performing refinery work.
As a way to limit on-the-job injury, Benson said the union is working to decrease the workload of refinery workers. This workplace is not one to be a jack of all trades, adding it is better to be an expert on one or two tasks than to be able to somewhat handle a multitude of tasks.
Support for the refinery workers
Benson said support for the refinery workers has been great. While temporary labor is working at the factory, Local 120 and other Teamsters local unions have been hosting rallies, including one at the St. Paul Park refinery.
He concluded by thanking U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for speaking at a rally in Toledo, Ohio and is looking forward to getting the refinery workers what they deserve.