Minnesota Refinery On The Verge Of Strike

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Workers at a large oil refinery in St. Paul Park, Minnesota voted to authorize a strike Wednesday, setting New Years Eve as the deadline.

Thursday was the last organized bargaining day, and the workers voted 148-0 to strike at midnight New Year’s Eve if a deal is not struck with Western Refining, the outgoing owners of the state’s oldest refinery, located in St. Paul Park, Minnesota Refinery.

The workers, represented by the Teamsters, said that the company is proposing staff cuts for vacancy relief operators, which is a high ranking position. The Teamsters also said that management plans to eliminate defined company pensions and to add a new process unit without adding new employees.

“The union does not believe the strike is in the best interest of the company or the surrounding community,” Chris Riley, business agent for Teamsters Local 120 said. “But we are prepared to take the actions necessary for the best interests of our employees,” he said.

Management at the refinery, which processes close to 100,000 gallons of crude oil each day, said that there are contingency plans in place that will allow the refinery to remain operational.

The St. Paul Park refinery has its fourth owner in six years, Tesoro Corp., which bought the 77-year-old refinery from Western Refinery in November. The current contract negotiations are between Western and the Teamsters, while Tesoro said it was not involved in the talks.

Texas-based Western acquired the refinery after its buyout of Northern Tier Energy in June. Northern Tier purchased the facility in 2010 from Marathon Oil.

The refinery gets its oil from North Dakota and Canada and delivers much of it to SuperAmerica gas stations, many of which are owned by Western (168 of the chain’s 277 stores are owned by Western, according to the Star Tribune, while the rest are franchised).

Tesoro had $29 billion in revenue in its most recent fiscal year making it the nation’s seventh-largest oil refinery at the beginning of 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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Ted Goodman