PAUL PARK, Minn. — Teamsters Local 120 members at Marathon’s oil refinery here have been on strike since Jan. 21, fighting for safer working conditions and no subcontracting out of jobs. The union made an unconditional offer to return to work while the contract was being negotiated, but when workers attempted to do so the gates were locked and their badges deactivated. Marathon also got a compliant judge to limit the picket lines to two.
The workers responded by setting up expanded picket lines at a Marathon-owned gas station in St. Paul Park supplied by the refinery. “Now that they have locked us out, we have filed for unemployment,” striker Adam Speedling told the Militant as he and his family picketed at the station Jan. 30. “We expect the company will deny it and we’ll have to fight for it.”
Marathon is the largest owner of oil refineries in the U.S.
The workers are receiving significant support from workers and unionists in the area. “Boom! $65,000 raised for locked-out Marathon Teamsters in just over 24 hours,” the Local posted on its Facebook page Jan. 30. “If Marathon thinks they can starve our members out with this lockout they are WRONG!”
Pledges and contributions so far include $10,000 from Teamsters Local 554, over $4,000 from union members at the Flint Hills refinery, and $10,000 from Teamsters Local 89.
“Thank you for all the support, keep it coming,” Local 120 responded. “When it comes to safety, we won’t back down and we won’t give up … as long as it takes.”
To show that solidarity goes both ways, Local 120 members organized food distribution Jan. 30-31, giving out 30-pound boxes of meat, fresh produce and dairy products to area families.
On the picket line strikers Sam Rustin and Dick Briguet, who used to be part of a full-time fire department at the refinery before the bosses disbanded it, told the Militant about the bosses’ disregard for safety. “There now is a volunteer EMT [emergency medical team], but presently all those workers are out on strike,” Rustin said. “The local fire departments only serve as backup, and they’re not trained to handle the hazardous and volatile chemical hydrofluoric acid should an accident happen.”
The picket line continues 24/7. Solidarity is welcome.