Western Wash. Oil Refineries Face Possible Strike

Jan 31, 2012

Bargaining is going down to the wire on new labor contracts at three of the five big oil refineries in the Northwest. Union members have been told to prepare to strike as early as Wednesday. Correspondent Tom Banse has more details.

United Steelworkers union contracts expire tonight for the ConocoPhillips refinery near Ferndale, Washington, at Tesoro Anacortes and at the US Oil refinery in Tacoma. In recent days, national union leaders have directed locals to prepare for "an orderly shutdown" of the facilities if bargaining reaches an impasse. Steelworkers Union spokeswoman Lynne Hancock says safety enhancements are key issues in the contract negotiations.

Lynne Hancock: "We're really trying to focus on trying to get an agreement. Just because locals may be preparing for a strike doesn't necessarily mean that one is definitely going to happen tonight."

Financial newswires are reporting that the major oil companies have contingency plans to keep operating with replacement workers if their union labor walks out. The affected refineries are major suppliers to the West Coast, so any strike could raise gasoline prices in short order in the Northwest. I'm Tom Banse in Olympia.