On the Picket Line

Minn. Marathon oil workers fight for safety, no subcontracting

By Nick Neeser
February 22, 2021

ST. PAUL PARK, Minn.— Over 200 workers and supporters attended a rally Feb. 4 in solidarity with members of Teamsters Local 120 on strike at the Marathon refinery here. They are fighting for safe working conditions and an end to subcontracting.

The workers walked out on strike Jan. 21. After they offered to return to work the next day while negotiations continued, Marathon locked them out. Marathon owns 16 refineries in the U.S.

“Both Amazon and Marathon find ways to cut corners in a way that jeopardizes our safety for their bottom line,” Amazon worker Tyler Hamilton told the crowd.

“I believe in what our union is fighting for. It’s safety. It’s safety for our children. Safety for our community. It’s safety for each other,” said Rhiannon Sklavenitis, whose husband was seriously burned while working at the refinery.

Workers say that Marathon is risking their lives on the job and in the surrounding community by keeping it running during the lockout. The plant utilizes anhydrous hydrofluoric acid — a dangerous chemical if not handled properly — to refine higher octane gasoline.

Several speakers pointed to a 2018 explosion with the same chemical at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, that injured three dozen workers and forced evacuations in the city. Other speakers included Kera Peterson from the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, strikers, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz.

According to Local 120 Business Manager Scott Kroona, drivers at unionized carriers Barton Oil and Praxair have refused to cross the picket lines.

Teamsters Local 120 has set up food distribution for strikers at the local American Legion and received new financial pledges of $10,000 from the Minnesota Nurses Union, $5,000 from Laborers Union Local 563 and $5,000 from SEIU Healthcare Minnesota as well as firewood to keep the pickets warm.

Send messages of support and contributions to the strike fund to Teamsters Local 120, 9422 Ulysses St. NE Blaine, MN 55434.