Organized Labor Displaying Signs Of Life

On Sunday, when three,800 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) walked off their jobs at nine oil refineries throughout the country (including two in my residence state of California), it marked the first national oil refinery strike in more than three decades, going all the way in which again to 1980. Congratulations, USW. With this strike, organized labor is lastly exhibiting signs of life.

Though business analysts have pointed out that gasoline prices have been already edging upwards several days before the strike, everyone is going to blame the union for any rise in fuel pump costs. And why wouldn’t they? Unions make wonderful scapegoats. Certainly, with the strike only a few days old, expect the oil firms to grab this alternative to boost costs disproportionately.

But the information tell a different story. Wanting again to 1980, the year of the final nationwide refinery strike, Phil Flynn, an analyst with the worth Futures Group, noted that even though that strike lasted a whopping three months, it had little impact on gasoline costs. In line with Flynn, it raised costs only “a few pennies at finest.”

The USW referred to as this current strike after rejecting five substandard proposals (the union described the ultimate supply as “insulting”) from Royal Dutch Shell, the company appearing as lead negotiator for the oil industry. In a strategic move, the USW’s walkout targeted specific amenities. Amongst them are the Tesoro Company, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, and LyondellBasell Industries, facilities stretching from California to Texas and Kentucky.

Aware that the oil corporations and media will try to portray these union members as greedy bastards, USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock made it clear that, while hourly wages are a element of those negotiations (as they’ve been in just about every contract negotiation in every industry in historical past), they don’t seem to be central to the bargain. This shutdown is not about hourly pay. “Wages will not be part of this walkout in any way,” she said.

Amongst the problems central to the strike are obligatory employee contributions to medical insurance, continued reductions in headcount (resulting in decrease staffing, longer hours and extra fatigue), and the corporate’s refusal to take critically the union’s request that the membership be trained for jobs which are more and more being carried out by outside contractors.

This exterior-contractor problem has grow to be an enormous deal to unions everywhere. And when it reaches essential mass, it should become an enormous deal to non-union employees Wire mesh corrugated as effectively. Based on what’s occurring within the marketplace, it’s the dream of every company to alter the status of their employees from “employee” to “unbiased contractor,” thereby permitting them not to must pay for insurance coverage, pensions, holidays or holidays.

As soon as your staff develop into classified as contractors, all you have to do is give them money for doing the job. Write them a paycheck and be performed with it. And because there’s virtually always going to be a surplus of employees, market forces are going to always drive wages downward.

But even on those occasions when employers are required to pay prime dollar for workers, the savings in benefits and administrative prices is going to be huge, which is why the transfer toward “de-categorizing” staff has turn out to be so well-liked.

Irrespective of how this USW strike seems, one hopes it sheds gentle on what’s develop into a dangerous pattern. The notion of loyal employees retiring after working 30 years for the same firm is an anachronism. Firms don’t desire loyalty. They want flexibility. And what they can not get from contractors they’ll try to get from robots. It ain’t a reasonably picture.

David Macaray, a playwright and author (It is Never Been Simple: Essays on Trendy Labor [Second Version]), is a former union rep. He can be reached at

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