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United Steelworkers voice concerns in commissioners court as ExxonMobil lockout continues after 4 months

Representatives from the union joined locked-out workers at Jefferson County Commissioner's Court where they asked county officials for help reaching an agreement.

BEAUMONT, Texas — The local United Steelworkers union and locked out ExxonMobil plant workers continue to be at a crossroads in negotiations with the energy giant.

Representatives from the USW Local 13-243 Tuesday joined locked-out workers at Jefferson County Commissioner's Court, where they asked county officials for help reaching an agreement with ExxonMobil.

"Every day, that highly trained, skilled steelworkers are off the job puts our community at risk," said Meekie Moseley with the local United Steelworker’s union.

The union's 650 members have been locked out of the Beaumont plant since May 1 after talks between them and the company stalled. Four months after the initial lockout of ExxonMobil workers and negotiations remain at a standstill.

Moseley said the longer these workers are out of work, the more the safety of employees and our community is compromised.

"Right now, the refinery is being operated by temporary replacement workers who lack our deep knowledge of the operations and how to best respond in emergency situations," Moseley said.

RELATED: ExxonMobil Beaumont to hire contractors to help with operations as union lockout continues

Bryan Gross with the United Steelworkers union agrees. He said it's not about money at this point, but rather the safety and seniority of the workers.

"[The] biggest thing about seniority is it takes all aspects,” Gross said. “Any other aspects out of it, you don't have to do an interview with a supervisor that doesn't like you. Race, any of those things it does not come into play."

Like Moseley, Gross said there have been some safety incidents that created renewed concerns.

“The flaring, they had a fire last week. I think it was a small tank fire," Gross said.

The most recent negotiation between the union and ExxonMobil representatives was Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Gross said the union and the Exxon workers have some dates coming up to meet with Exxon. 

The longer these negotiations drag out, the longer workers like Christopher Edwards are affected.

"Big corporations are just trying to run wild these days and. The little man doesn't matter," Edwards said.

Edwards, who has been with the Beaumont Exxon plant for nearly eight years, said it's been tough being locked out, but he appreciates all the support he and other workers have received from the community.

"Just the donations and outpouring from the community will help ease the pain for our members, and we greatly appreciate that," Edwards said.

Full statement from ExxonMobil...

ExxonMobil has been actively engaged in good faith negotiations since January 2021. Despite extensive efforts, both sides remain far apart. The company’s current offer remains available for a vote by the membership. ExxonMobil continues to operate Beaumont safely and reliably with a highly competent staff of supervisors and engineers with more than 100,000 hours of training.We will continue to engage in good faith negotiations with the union until a contract is ratified.

For additional information, please reference the latest update posted to our website on Sept. 1, link here

Safety - https://embeaumont.com/answering-your-questions/

Since employees are locked out, how is the refinery running safely?

  • Nothing is more important to ExxonMobil than the safety and health of our employees, our contractors, and the people who live and work near our operations.
  • As a result of the USW’s strike vote in December, ExxonMobil has spent months preparing to run both our Refinery and Lubricant Blending and Packaging Plant operations safely in the absence of a USW-represented workforce in the event we were unable to reach an agreement.
  • This preparation included extensive training, to ensure full qualifications for all EMCO roles, employees filling these roles have completed more than 100,000 hours worth of training.
  • Prior to transitioning, we ensured our facilities and personnel were able to successfully maintain the stability of the units through the handover. Workforce capabilities were developed in basic operator, unit-specific, safety and emergency response training prior to transition. These positions have been staffed by well-qualified personnel from within the facility who have previously held these positions and/or have been closely involved with day-to-day operations prior to becoming qualified to execute them.
  • Consistent with the lockout on May 1, we completed a safe and successful transition to ensure the stability of the refinery operating units.
  • Our neighbors can expect the same dedication to safety they have come to expect from ExxonMobil. As always, we have a fully trained and staffed emergency response group. We are also working with the local authorities to ensure the safety of our employees and our neighbors, and to safeguard our site and the public.

Are the provisions being discussed with the USW related to safety issues?

  • Our stalemate with the USW is not related to safety concerns or lack of employee access to appropriate training or safeguards.
  • Consistent with our bargaining priorities as communicated to the USW on day one, ExxonMobil is seeking an agreement which continues to build the safety of our workforce, the reliability of our operations, and the profitability of our site.
  • ExxonMobil considers all of our employees, both represented and non-represented, to be key stakeholders in our safety programs and our performance. They help ensure that our facilities are operated safely and efficiently, partly due to guidance provided by ExxonMobil’s Operations Integrity Management System.

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