RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) – More than 500 workers at a Chevron Corp. refinery. in the San Francisco Bay Area went on strike early Monday over safety concerns and demanded a pay rise to keep up with inflation and the region’s high cost of living.
The strike, which affected the refinery in the city of Richmond, began at 12:01 am. It came after workers rejected Chevron’s latest contract offer and the company refused to return to the bargaining table, the United Steelworkers union said.
Chevron said in a statement Sunday night that it had been negotiating with the union for months and believed a contract offered by the company was fair and had addressed the union’s concerns.
The union said it had negotiated a national agreement for oil workers on wages and working conditions, but about 200 individual collective bargaining units have yet to negotiate on local issues.
BK White, a representative for USW Local 5, a refiner who has worked for the company for 29 years, said Chevron has failed to address worker fatigue and staff shortages.
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“If we had more people and could get better pay, maybe our members wouldn’t feel obliged to work up to 70 hours a week to make ends meet. We don’t think that’s for sure,” White said.
Chevron said the Richmond union’s demands “exceeded what the company saw fit and went beyond what was agreed under the national collective bargaining agreement.”
The company offered a 2.5% raise, but the union had asked for 5% to keep up with inflation and the cost of living in the Bay Area, White said.
“It’s tough for workers in the Bay Area, and we’ve asked for a 5% increase to help us a little with our medical coverage at Kaiser, which has increased 23% over the last few years,” White said .
The company said refinery operations will continue despite the strike and does not expect any problems in the supply chain. If the strike shut down the refinery, it could negatively impact gasoline prices in California — which has the highest regular gasoline price in the country at $5.86 a gallon, according to the American Automobile Association.
The old contract with Chevron in Richmond expired on February 1, and workers had reported to work with a rolling 24-hour extension, the union said.
San Ramon, California-based Chevron said on its website that the refinery employs 1,300 workers and produces gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and lubricating oils.
The union represents about 600 workers, including machinists, pipe fitters, lab technicians and warehouse workers, White said.
Chevron said in a statement it was “fully prepared to continue normal operations.”
“We do not expect any problems in maintaining a reliable supply of products to the market,” it said.
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