On the Picket Line

Steelworkers rally protests firings at Calif. Chevron refinery

By Carole Lesnick
April 17, 2023

RICHMOND, Calif. — Over 60 people attended a protest organized by  United Steelworkers Local 5 at the Chevron oil refinery here March 23 titled “We are still here.” The leaflet building the action said, “Bring your family, friends and pets for a rally marking nearly one year since we went on strike.”

“Since coming back to work last May over 10 union members have been unjustly terminated,” B.K. White, a member of the union’s Workers Committee at the refinery and former USW Local 5 president, told the Militant. “Toward the end of the strike, I was told off the record that Chevron management would be gunning for me. They intended to find any excuse to fire me. And that’s just what happened. I got fired fighting for my people. We are waiting for arbitration to get my job back.”

Elvira Figueroa, a worker with more than seven years at the refinery, said, “Beyond the 10 fired, there are many more who have been placed in the discipline system. In some cases, they’re just one step away from firing. The company is particularly going after union health and safety representatives.”

“Chevron’s purpose is to threaten and intimidate us to keep us from continuing to carry out union activity,” she said. “In many ways the unity we had on the picket line made us stronger.”

“Two of the firings were for ‘misconduct’ on the picket line. The other eight were manufactured. All are unjustified,” Jose Chavez, head of the Workers Committee, said. “The company is going full out to punish union activists.

“The picket today is a good step to defend our members and our union,” he added. “The union is fighting to get everyone’s job back. It’s in the grievance process and it will be many months more before any of these firings are resolved.”