Chevron has fired five workers who went on strike at the oil giant’s Richmond refinery last spring, according to their union. The apparent termination of United Steelworkers Local 5 employees at one of the West Coast’s major oil refining facilities prompted the union to file complaints with federal labor regulators.
The workers Chevron fired — two during the walkout and three in the months that followed — were mostly safety operators at the refinery who played leadership roles in the strike, according to union president Tracy Scott.
The firings “were unjust,” Scott said.
One of those fired was B.K. White, a top union negotiator who became the face of the labor action and had worked at the refinery for nearly three decades.
“You could just tell it was retaliatory or punitive in nature,” said White, vice president of USW Local 5. “It appears there’s a concerted effort to break the union.”
In a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the union alleges that Chevron ordered its members to train contractors to do union-covered work and then punished them for their labor activities. The NLRB has deferred action on the Local 5's unfair labor practice charges pending arbitration of a grievance the union had already filed with the company.
News of the firings comes months after a 10-week-long strike by hundreds of USW workers. It was the first walkout at Chevron’s Richmond refinery in 40 years.
The marathon labor action ended up delivering only modest gains to workers. The contract, approved by a slim majority of union members, gave a small bump in pay and medical benefits to refinery employees who went without paychecks for more than two months.
“You were just asking for a little dignity and little relief from a corporation that’s raking in billions of dollars and not sharing it with its workers but sharing it with their board of directors or their stockholders on Wall Street,” White said.