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USW reaches sellout deal, moves to shut down oil workers’ strike

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 15.52.46From an article by Jerry White published 13 March 2015 by WSWS

USW reaches sellout deal, moves to shut down oil workers’ strike

The United Steelworkers (USW) union announced Thursday that it had reached a tentative agreement with lead bargainer Royal Dutch Shell that would be the basis for a four-year labor agreement covering 30,000 workers in the US oil industry.

The deal was reached as the selective strike by 6,500 workers in seven states nears the end of its sixth week. The USW says picketing will continue until local union members ratify agreements presented to them by the rest of the industry.

Any agreement reached by the USW under the circumstances in which the strike has been waged can only be a miserable betrayal. The union has blocked the full mobilization of all oil workers, allowing the energy giants to maintain production while threatening to replace strikers with “relief workers.” It was not the companies that backed down, but the union that decided a rapid agreement was necessary to prevent the strike from getting out of control.

Predictably, the USW praised the agreement as a “victory,” with USW International President Leo W. Gerard saying, “There was no way we would have won vast improvements in safety and staffing” without the “solidarity of our membership.”

This is nothing but a crude lie. Workers struck and sacrificed weeks of pay and health insurance to end the impossibly long and unsafe work schedules in the dangerous industry and to recoup lost income from years of inadequate pay raises and huge out-of-pocket health costs. Workers fought for full-time jobs for the next generation and to reverse the industry’s drive to transform the workforce into causal at-will laborers, with no guaranteed hours, medical insurance or pensions.

Adding insult to injury, the USW reportedly agreed to an meager 12 percent wage increase over four years, barely in line with inflation. Workers would receive a 2.5 raise in the first year, three percent in years two and three and 3.5 in the fourth year. It also gives the green light for the companies to continue to force workers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care expenses.

As details of the agreement emerge, there is little doubt that more concessions and accommodations are included.

From the very beginning, the USW apparatus was negotiating for its own interests, not those of rank-and-file workers. It only called the strike in an effort to dissipate widespread opposition to years of union-backed concessions, which led to the erosion of living standards and safety and work conditions. The union restricted the strike to only a small fraction of the workers in organizes in the industry, and then joined management’s efforts to starve workers into submission, refusing to provide any significant aid from its $350 million strike fund.

The USW rushed to reach a settlement—which has not even been confirmed by Shell as of this writing—because of increasing opposition from rank-and-file workers and growing demands for a nationwide walkout.

The USW will now pressure workers in local bargaining units to ratify the deal by making it clear that any local that fails to do so will be left alone to confront the full strength of the oil companies.


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