On the Picket Line

Back locked-out Minnesota oil refinery workers’ fight for safety!

By Helen Meyers
April 26, 2021

ST. PAUL PARK, Minn. — Two hundred Teamsters, members of Local 120, have been locked out by Marathon Petroleum here since January 22. While negotiations continue, the company, the biggest refinery owner in the U.S., has refused to budge, especially on its demand to use more nonunion workers.

“No matter what the cost to the community and the workers, Marathon will do anything just to make a few more bucks,” Ken Schwebach, a union retiree who worked 30 years at the refinery, told this Militant worker-correspondent on the picket line April 9. “This place can do a lot of damage.”

The question of safety is a key part of the strike. The refining process here uses highly volatile chemicals that if not handled carefully by experienced workers could lead to a disaster.

“We are getting unbelievable support. Volunteers come out here, day and night, to walk the line with us,” a locked-out worker told me.

Laborers Local 153 has set up banners of support along the road into the plant. Local members staff their tractor-trailer across from the refinery and use it to feed all the pickets.

Ilona Gersh, a Walmart worker from Chicago and member of the Socialist Workers Party, joined the picket line April 9, bringing a solidarity card signed by over 20 of her co-workers.

Given the standoff — 200 workers vs. a worldwide oil company behemoth — support is crucial.  Come and join the 24/7 picket line. Tell your co-workers, union and any other group you’re part of about the strike. Send messages and contributions to Teamsters Local 120, 9422 Ulysses St. NE, Blaine, MN 55434.