ST. PAUL PARK, Minn. — Locked-out Marathon oil refinery workers continue to picket here 24/7 and receive much-needed solidarity from other workers and unionists.
The 200 workers, members of Teamsters Local 120, were locked out by the bosses Jan. 22 after a one-day strike. The central issues in their fight are the bosses’ push to contract out work involving hazardous chemicals, job cuts and job combinations. The company is keeping its operations running using managers and contract workers.
Pickets welcomed a carload from Lincoln, Nebraska, March 13 who delivered a solidarity message signed by over 100 workers.
“You are fighting not just for yourselves, but for the safety of the community surrounding the refinery where you work,” the message read.
“Marathon Oil, like all bosses, tries to keep workers divided and isolated. But your fight is our fight. Working people must stick together! Stay strong!”
The locked-out workers are up against the largest oil refining company in the U.S. and face a serious fight.
Joining the picket line from Lincoln were Lance Anton, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad conductor and member of SMART-TD Local 0305; Diane Dormer, a furniture store worker; and Joe Swanson, a former railroad and meatpacking worker and the Socialist Workers Party candidate for City Council at-large in Lincoln.
“I came here to bring solidarity,” Anton told the Militant. “People and labor are what make production happen.” Anton got signatures of support for the refinery workers’ fight from 59 rail workers, 21 other unionists and five friends and neighbors. He said the first thing he plans to do when he goes back to work is to talk up his experience and try to get co-workers to join another trip to walk the picket line.
“This is a just and important cause,” Dormer said. Visiting the picket line was “a good experience.” Sixteen of her co-workers signed the solidarity message.
Marathon bosses “don’t want to fix the problems,” Mark Crow, one of the locked-out workers, told Swanson. “They want to take more jobs away, and we’re already shorthanded. That’s what we’re fighting for. If we all stand together, they’ll get nervous.”
“Many workers are facing attacks from the bosses today,” Swanson replied. “We can relate to what you face.”
Eliazar Forseca has worked as a console operator at the refinery for 10 years. His family lives nearby and would need to evacuate in case of an emergency at the plant.
“We haven’t even talked about money,” he told the Militant, referring to contract negotiations with the bosses. “This is about us keeping our jobs within the union. They want to keep these jobs subcontracted, and it’s not safe.”
Forseca has brought his family to the picket line. “The company won’t let our kids picket,” he said. “Anyone who wants to support us should be able to come out. How does it look for the company when kids and families are out here over safety concerns? They’re just showing us that they have the power.”
Forseca’s father-in-law, 86-year-old Wayne Washluske, also joined the picket line. He is a retired member of United Steelworkers Local 12775 in Indiana. “I wanted to come out and help,” he said.
The food giveaway by the Teamsters to the community continues. Messages and donations to the strike fund can be sent to Teamsters Local 120, 9422 Ulysses St. NE, Blaine, MN 55434.