United Steelworkers accuse Exxon of union busting at Texas refinery

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Exxon locked out 650 union workers from its Beaumont, Texas, plant on May 1 after the prior contract expired and there was no vote on the company’s proposed offer. The refinery, which makes gasoline and Mobil 1 motor oil, has continued to operate using managers and replacement staff.

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board this week said it had received a petition backed by signatures from at least 30% of workers represented by United Steelworkers union local 13-243, the minimum required to call for a decertification vote, to remove the union.

If the Beaumont employees approve a decertification, it would remove the USW as their bargaining agent. There is no timetable yet set for when a vote could occur.

The USW said in a statement on Friday any vote would be tainted by “serious unfair labor practices” and accused Exxon of “misleading people with confusing statements regarding our union, our negotiations and the company’s spiteful lockout…”

The USW has said the company’s proposal would wipe out important worker seniority protections and by creating separate contracts for the plant’s refinery and lubricant oil plant employees dilute their negotiating power.

Exxon has said its proposal contains provisions needed to ensure flexibility to compete in low-margin environments. The oil company this week stepped up its efforts to win a vote, accusing the union of sowing misinformation and engaging in voter suppression on the decertification effort.