MINNEAPOLIS — After a long and bitter lockout by Marathon Petroleum bosses at the St. Paul Park refinery, members of Teamsters Local 120 voted to approve a revised contract offer from the company. The workers returned to work July 6 after over five months on the picket line.
“This new contract addresses some concerns, it does not address all of them,” Scott Kroona, business agent of Teamsters Local 120, told the press. Teamsters Chief Steward Dean Benson told the Militant that all 11 workers fired in the course of the strike were reinstated. Maintenance workers received some new job protection, while the contract did include some job combinations.
The workers voted on this revised offer after rejecting an earlier proposal June 21. Seven strikers had crossed the line after that vote.
“This has been a long battle with many twists and turns, but we’re immensely proud of our members who put their livelihood on the line to demand better working conditions and protect their community,” Kroona said.
Teamsters Local 120 members had walked out of the refinery Jan. 21 in a 24-hour strike. However, the next day they found themselves locked out by the company. They organized pickets at refinery gates. Later, after injunctions limited their picketing, they fanned out throughout the area, setting up informational pickets at Speedway gas stations, which are owned by Marathon, explaining their fight and winning solidarity.
Union members explained the refinery uses volatile chemicals, that if not handled right could explode and wreak havoc in the plant and the community. They were fighting to prevent the bosses from replacing them with less-experienced contract workers.
Scott Kroona extended thanks to all those who stepped up to support the locked-out workers. Solidarity came from the United Steelworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Roofers, Laborers International Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, Minnesota Nurses Union, Amalgamated Transit Union, United Auto Workers and other Teamster locals. Local 120 received donations, solidarity cards, and joined in a 70-car caravan of labor supporters and other activists.
Solidarity came from Trajabadores Unidos por la Justicia, a union of fruit packers in Washington state. Money and solidarity were sent from workers at several different Walmart stores.
Lance Anton, a BNSF Railway conductor, his friend Diane Dormer and retired rail worker Joe Swanson drove up from Lincoln, Nebraska, to join strikers on the picket line. They brought a letter with over 100 signatures from rail workers and others. It said, “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!”