ExxonMobil strikers reject contract, boss attacks on seniority and safety

By Alyson Kennedy
November 1, 2021

DALLAS — The 650 members of United Steelworkers Local 13-243 locked out by ExxonMobil in Beaumont, Texas, overwhelmingly rejected  the company’s six-year contract proposal Oct. 19.

“This shows we are still together, we are one group,” USW staff representative Bryan Gross told the Beaumont Enterprise. “The refinery guys are supporting the (blending and packaging plant) workers, and vice versa.”

“We overwhelmingly voted no,” Earl Miller, an assistant refinery operator at the plant, told the Militant in a phone interview Oct. 20. “It was unfair to our brothers and sisters in the B&P plant and would eliminate the A-operator, a position key to keeping the community and the unit safe. It takes years to get trained to get up to the level for this job.”

Workers stood firm in the face of a phone-calling campaign by the oil bosses to pressure workers to vote yes and to join in a company-backed effort to have the National Labor Relations Board decertify the union.

“As long as we come together to show we are not going to have our seniority taken away and vote ‘no,’ everything will be fine,” Teria Howard, a complex operator in the refinery, told the Militant in a phone interview. “This is an important issue for us and our future co-workers.”

There is a food pantry at the union hall, well stocked with meat, poultry, canned goods, diapers and other grocery items donated from USW locals at other refineries, other unions and bought with funds sent by working people from around the country. This has helped sustained the unionists.

“I am on the intake team for the union,”  Howard said. “Every Tuesday and Thursday we take applications for members who need assistance with mortgages, water, electricity and propane bills. We have gotten a lot of support from other USW locals and the international. Unemployment has run out for some and will run out soon for others. So we are seeing members coming for help with their bills for the first time.”

Your support can help workers continue their fight. Donations and letters of solidarity can be sent to USW Local 13-243, 2490 S. 11th St., Beaumont, TX 77701.