Local steel workers and officials with Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Galveston Bay Refinery plan to return to the bargaining table this week after the union membership overwhelmingly rejected a company contract offer, union representatives said.

United Steelworkers Local 13-1 members rejected the offer by more than 90 percent, said local Treasurer Brandi Sanders.

The local represents about 3,500 workers at 29 sites in Galveston and Harris counties, according to the union website.

Employees will continue working at the Galveston Bay Refinery, on the Galveston Bay at the Houston ship channel entrance, through next week as the union continues to negotiate with Marathon officials, Sanders said.

Company officials could not be reached Saturday.

The union and the company have been discussing a deal since mid-January to replace one that expired Feb. 1, Sanders said.

On Feb. 1, company officials presented their offer, but union members didn’t begin voting until Thursday, Sanders said. Voting ended Friday night, she said.

Since Feb. 1, employees have been working on rolling 24-hour extensions, she said.

The union has a variety of concerns it wants addressed in the eventual contract, including benefits, sick pay and a chief safety operator position.

“This job was created and now they’re trying to eliminate the position,” Sanders said. “It’s a critical position.”

These negotiations come almost four years after a 2015 labor strike that stopped work at the Galveston refinery for 143 days. During that strike, workers were most concerned with health and safety representatives, alternative work schedules and dependent care, among others topics.

Employees’ concerns over health and safety have continued since a 2005 explosion at the refinery, which BP owned at the time, that killed 15 workers.

About 1,960 people work at the Galveston Bay Refinery, according to the company website. It produces gasoline and heavy fuel oil, among other products. Marathon, based in Findlay, Ohio, purchased the refinery in 2013.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

(10) comments

Paul Hyatt

Praying for peace and sanity from both sides....

Gary Scoggin

I'm with you, Paul.

George Croix

Pretty routine.
The first vote rarely if ever passes.
Still talking is the key....
Been a fast 4 years.....

I did notice:
"Employees’ concerns over health and safety have continued since a 2005 explosion at the refinery, which BP owned at the time, that killed 15 workers."

There wouldn't have BEEN a 2005 explosion if the braintrusts that had been in charge since '98 hadn't been so focused on spreadsheets and more on experienced advice...imo....and the in-house toadies who went along with every 'improvement' share equally....
Continued my rear end......
You won't find an actual field level worker exposed to health and safety issues who hasn't been 'concerned' with their health and safety since the first day they walked through the gate to work.....

Steve Fouga

This strikes me as weird, because years ago as medical costs skyrocketed it was suddenly possible for insurance and lawsuits to bring even major companies to their knees. Recognizing this, entire industries focused on safety to an extent previously unimaginable. In my job, for example, safety training was required even for office workers, knowing they would occasionally need to venture into the factory. Safety officers were appointed for both salaried and represented employees. Mind you, this was in an industry where we were NOT working full-time near what amounted to a bomb. Thus, I assumed that extreme safety consciousness had by now pervaded American heavy industry, and certainly the energy bidness.

I know there are good arguments on both sides of any management/union standoffs, but my personal experience is that a union win ALWAYS benefits the salaried employees as well. Furthermore, anyone seeing the big picture will acknowledge that safety enhancements ALWAYS benefit everybody, either directly or through lower insurance costs. To me, it's a non-starter for management to do anything that might cause the rank and file to feel their safety is being threatened (although in this case the union's objection might just be the elimination of a represented position).

George Croix

I've never worked for Marathon, but with the old owners, AND the employees, the issue often came down to what was actually safety related, and was called safety related....
It's almost always better to err on the side of caution, but, in a few...a FEW cases...some years ago, the 'safety' issue became the go-to, for BOTH sides, company and union, for anything that could not be successfully argued for/against any other way. The all inclusive hammer, like 'racist' has become the damnation of last resort for everything these days.......
One BIG problem, though, back then, is that the field people were looked down upon as 'less capable' (which is French for 'not as smart as us) of making such decisions by the top management, when, as anyone who has BT/DT knows, the field people are THE smartest guys in the room about it, because they LIVE with it daily.
Who REALLY knows more about the on site subject, the guy working the job for 20 years, or the one with a wall plaque signed last year or who arrived on scene last month.....?
SHOULD be a rhetorical question, but I'll bet that the practices of the past are alive and well today......if I'm wrong, anyone can feel free to correct me.....with a straight face, I mean............
BUT, flip side is it's also true that a few folks, BOTH salaried and hourly, ignored the safety practices and procedures we had in place...
There IS a time and place for doing so...for ignoring 'established procedures'...when conditions or circumstances change and it is, right then and there, MORE hazardous to do things the 'correct' way. But, that's what they pay the field guys for...to gain the experience to make those calls.......
And around she goes........

Jose' Boix

Not being versed in such contract negotiations, was interested in the statement:

"The union has a variety of concerns it wants addressed in the eventual contract, including benefits, sick pay and a chief safety operator position.

“This job was created and now they’re trying to eliminate the position,” Sanders said. “It’s a critical position.”"

Was that a BP created position then, now proposed for elimination by Marathon? If I recall big ticket issues always revolved around pay, but those were the days...

George Croix

This is the second contract negotiations since Marathon bought out BP's refinery....

You and I both have reached the point where used to be bears little resemblance to what now is.... [beam][beam]

Paul Hyatt

Amoco eliminated the Chief position and BP brought it back after the Isom explosion.

George Croix

The article says 'chief safety officer', which unless the terminology was combined, would be different from a chief operator, who's primary job is process unit operations.
There never was a 'chief safety officer' during my time there, but the removal of the chief operator position long before BP came along was a BIG mistake, imo. A GOOD CO is worth his weight in gold....a bad one is worth less than nothing, and unfortunately, any management looking for excuses to cut will damn all in a bunch rather than single out bad actors.
As a process unit supervisor, I can attest that losing my CO (there was one per shift letter....) was royal pain.
Eventually, around, what, 2010??, or so, BP brought the position back, but it was still a process operations job, not titled as a safety job, at least not through my last day ther nearly 8 years ago......

Somebody familiar with Marathon please help us out here....

David Smith

Whos the man that has the experiance on the unit to do whats necessary when things go south?
Whos the man that sees to it that the unit keeps on purring... Overseeing the operators in the performance of optimal production?
Whos the man overseeing maintenance in his unit?
Dont know what Marathon calls them..
Where I worked across the street they were called lead technicians..
Why would any company that allegedly has safety as one of its cornerstones.... get rid of such a position?
We all know how dangerous this industry is..
Looks like Marathon wants to cut corners when it comes to safety.. this is a danger to the employees.. and to the community

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