March 20, 2012 / 10:48 PM / 6 years ago

Second USW local authorizes strike against refiner

HOUSTON, March 20 (Reuters) - A second United Steelworkers union local has authorized a strike against independent western U.S. refiner Tesoro Corp as talks for a new contract continue between labor and management at six of the company’s refineries.

Workers at Tesoro’s 120,000 barrel per day (bpd) Anacortes, Washington, refinery voted on Monday night to authorize a strike, joining workers at the company’s 166,000 bpd Martinez, California, refinery, who voted two weeks ago to authorize a work stoppage.

Workers at both refineries remain on the job and the strike authorization vote does not mean a strike will happen.

“The workers do it to put pressure on the company,” said Lynne Hancock, United Steelworkers spokeswoman.

Tesoro said it expects to reach agreement with workers at the six USW-represented refineries for a new contract.

“We continue negotiations at our USW-represented Tesoro refineries and work toward ratification of all agreements,” said Tesoro spokeswoman Tina Barbee. “Should ratification not occur, we are prepared to activate our contingency plans.”

The company has not been notified of an intent to strike by workers at any of the refineries.

A strike authorization empowers a local union’s bargaining committee to call a strike.

USW members at Tesoro refineries have been angered by Tesoro’s decision to make changes in benefits without first negotiating with the union. Most of the changes affect retirement benefits.

The workers are also seeking greater safety protections within the company’s refineries. An April 2010 explosion at Tesoro’s Anacortes, Washington, refinery claimed the lives of seven workers.

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