Texas refinery workers fight ExxonMobil bosses’ lockout

By Alyson Kennedy
and George Chalmers
August 23, 2021

DALLAS — Some 650 oil workers, members of United Steelworkers Local 13-243, have been locked out of their jobs at the ExxonMobil Refinery and Lubricant Blending and Packaging plant in Beaumont, Texas, for over three months. They’ve maintained picket lines 24/7 since they refused to accept a contract that would give up long-standing seniority rights and divide workers by creating different contracts covering the refinery and the lubricant plant.

The lockout began May 1, when the bosses escorted workers out of the company’s third-largest U.S. refinery. The company is trying to keep operations going, using managers and replacement workers. The complex produces gasoline and Mobil 1 motor oil.

On June 25 company officials reported they had suffered an “operation upset” that required them to release 1,600 pounds of emissions into the air, more than half of which cause “irritation and breathing issues.”

The company “wants to eliminate seniority and the A-operator job, which carries a lot of responsibility,” Ruben Garza, USW District Council 13 director, told the Militant. “The A-operator can stop the line when safety is involved.” ExxonMobil wants to eliminate these jobs. With seniority under attack, safety is a major issue.

The company says it needs the contract changes to “give it the flexibility to be profitable in low-margin environments,” reports Reuters. The fact is ExxonMobil has reported $7.4 billion in profits for the first half of 2021.

On June 21 the USW filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board saying that ExxonMobil is “locking employees out based on anti-Union animus, for the purpose of decertifying the Union.”

Donations and letters of support can be sent to USW Local 13-243 at 2490 South 11th St., Beaumont, TX 77701.