Locked out Marathon workers win support in fight for safety

By Gabby Prosser
April 12, 2021

ST. PAUL PARK, Minn. — Some 200 oil refinery workers here, members of Teamsters Local 120, are now in their 10th week fighting a lockout by the bosses at Marathon Petroleum, the largest oil refining company in the U.S. They are receiving growing solidarity from many unions and other workers in the area and across the country.

Local 722 President Steve Frisque and other members of United Auto Workers Local 722 came from Hudson, Wisconsin, March 28 to join their picket line, show support and share experiences from their national strike against General Motors in 2019. Frisque explained why they had come, and later sent a formal statement on behalf of the union. (See solidarity message below photo.)

The central issue in the refinery workers’ fight is company demands to replace union members with nonunion contract workers. This would make workers inside the refinery less safe, as well as those who live in the area.

Dozens of Marathon workers’ family and friends came out March 11 and joined the picket line to show widespread community support.

“I stand behind him 1,000%,” Megan Christner told the St. Paul Union Advocate, talking about her husband, Jason, an operator in the refinery. “I told him do not back down. You’ve got to stand up for what you believe.”

The locked-out Teamsters are among a number of unions fighting boss attacks on their right to a union, a job, and on their wages and working conditions.

This includes 1,300 Steelworkers at ATI’s nine mills in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Connecticut; Teamsters Local 89 members on strike for a contract at DSI in Louisville, Kentucky; nurses at St. Vincent hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts; and some 5,800 warehouse workers seeking union representation against a ferocious anti-union campaign by Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama.

When Local 722 went on strike, Frisque said, they received solidarity from the Teamsters and many other unions. “They had our backs when we needed them,” he wrote. “We will have theirs whenever and wherever they need us.”

The visiting UAW members and Teamsters both said they had been amazed at the amount of solidarity they got, noting it really gave them a boost. One woman from the area, Local 120 members said, comes out every night at 8 p.m. and serves dinner to pickets seven nights a week.

A group of members of Teamsters Local 320 from St. Louis County, which includes Duluth, came down to show support March 27. And members of United Steelworkers Local 662, who work at the large Flint Hills Resources refinery in Rosemount, came over as well.

The Teamsters have their picket line up 24/7 and welcome all who want to help.

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