Texas Oil Refinery Workers Ratify Exxon Labor Contract Offer

Reuters, February 23, 2022

Union workers locked out of their jobs at a Texas oil refinery for nearly 10 months voted on Monday to accept an Exxon Mobil Corp contract offer, ceding to a key company demand that it have the right to determine plant assignments.

About 600 United Steelworkers union members at the 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery and Mobil 1 motor oil plant were locked out May 1 to preclude a wildcat strike, Exxon has said. The Beaumont, Texas, facility has continued to run since with managers and temporary workers.

The contract allows Exxon to decide all assignments, an issue that led to a rejection vote in October. A quarter of assignments previously were determined by worker seniority. The contract also adds Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday.

Exxon said it was "thrilled" by the vote, adding employees would return to work "as soon as safely possible." The contract was made effective from Feb. 1, 2021.

The six-year contract was approved by a vote of 214 to 133, according to USW International representative Bryan Gross.

"The membership decided to accept the offer after 10 months of a fight," Gross said. "The company started the lockout; they can end it at any time."

USW local 13-243 intends to continue with an unfair labor practices complaint, Gross said. The USW has alleged Exxon imposed the lockout to force removal of the union.

Also to be decided is whether the USW will continue to represent the plant's hourly workers. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversaw a vote in November and December on removing the USW, a move sought by 30% of union members. 

Before the Beaumont workers can return to work, the two sides must negotiate an agreement that sets rules for returning employees. Preliminary talks on the agreement began last week.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Shivani Singh)

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