In mid-November, the 220 USW units that are part of the National Oil Bargaining Program (NOBP) ratified the National Oil Bargaining Policy that delegates to the NOBP conference in September approved.
The policy had to pass by 75 percent of the voting units. By ratifying the policy, the membership voted to authorize the USW leadership to call for a strike if an agreement is not reached by 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2019.
The International will begin negotiations with Shell Oil Co. in mid-January and address the issues in the National Oil Bargaining Policy to reach a national, pattern agreement.
At the same time, oil units will conduct their local bargaining over issues affecting their own facilities and units. Examples include: refinery work rules, shoe and meal allowances and seniority.
The USW is pushing to return to council bargaining. Oil units and local unions that work for the same employer can negotiate together in their company councils to push for company-wide issues, such as healthcare plan design and retirement benefits.
The former Tesoro Nationwide Council (now part of Marathon Petroleum) negotiated together in 2012 to fight the company over its proposed benefit cuts. Each local placed the same proposal at the same time on the table. They communicated frequently through conference calls, emails and at a specially-called council meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they had a demonstration outside the Tesoro plant.
The council successfully pushed back against Tesoro’s demands, and in the next round of bargaining in 2015, the company did not attempt to shove takebacks down workers’ throats.
In 2012, Dave Campbell, Local 675 secretary-treasurer, described the council’s effort:
“Our members and unit leaders did a great job with the tremendous support of the USW, the Tesoro Nationwide Council and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor and its affiliates to mobilize and secure a contract that we can live with over the next three years. We did not get everything we wanted, but we came a lot closer to where we had wanted to be than to where Tesoro had wanted to take us.”
Mobilize, Mobilize, Mobilize
By now, the oil units should have their Communications Action Teams (CAT) in place and distributed a brochure about the National Oil Bargaining Program and other literature sent out from the USW Strategic Campaigns department.
There also are likely to be sticker days when everyone wears a sticker the same day, “Fair Contract Now” placards that can be placed on vehicle windshields, handbills and rallies. In 2015, some West Coast locals projected a “Fair Contract Now” visual on oil storage tanks.
The holidays are a perfect time to establish positive connections with local communities through toy, food and clothing drives, and other charitable ventures. Being union is more than just negotiating a contract. It is people working together so that everyone benefits—not just the select few at the top.