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Hundreds of Chevron Workers Begin Strike as Company Refuses Further Bargaining

By Sharon Zhang - Truthout, March 21, 2022

On Monday, hundreds of Chevron workers in the San Francisco Bay Area went on strike after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage raises.

The contract, covering over 500 workers, was struck down by United Steelworkers (USW) Local 5 members on Sunday. Workers were forced to go on strike after the company said that it had already offered its “last, best and final” contract, according to the union.

“It’s disappointing that Chevron would walk away from the table instead of bargaining in good faith with its dedicated work force,” Mike Smith, USW’s National Oil Bargaining Program chair, said in a statement. “USW members continued to report for work throughout the pandemic so our nation could meet its energy needs. They deserve a fair contract that reflects their sacrifice.”

The company has brought in workers to replace the union members, which it has been training for a year. The latest contract expired in February and workers have been operating under a rolling daily extension, according to the union.

The refinery workers say that one of the main reasons for the strike is insufficient wage raises. USW, which currently represents about 30,000 oil workers in negotiations with oil and chemical employers, reached a national agreement with refiners in February to raise wages by 12 percent over four years.

Local 5 had asked for an additional pay bump of 5 percent in order to account for higher costs of living in the San Francisco area, where it’s estimated that individuals must make at least $80,000 a year just to survive.

The company has offered additional increases of about 2.5 to 3.5 percent. “We countered with just a minimal bump and we were told by the corporation that there was no movement, no money,” Local 5 Vice President B.K. White told KTVU. “We feel when a company can report 15 billion profit and the highest profit since 2014, they can give the people whose backs they’re making these earnings off of, give them a little boost to help them out.”

Indeed, Chevron reported high 2021 profits earlier this year. The company increased its profits to $15.6 billion in 2021 after experiencing a loss of $5.5 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, even though the company lost money in 2020, it paid its CEO, M.K. Wirth, nearly $29 million in compensation. The company also recently promised its shareholders that they would see dividends from current high oil prices, and increased its stock buyback program to as much as $10 billion a year.

In response to workers’ demands, the company has said that their asks “exceeded what the company believes to be reasonable.” The company has said that it plans to resume talks, though the union says it hasn’t been contacted about further negotiations.

According to labor reporter Jonah Furman, the strike could just be the first in a series of strikes for the roughly 200 USW bargaining units in negotiations. “[T]his could be the first shot in a much wider work stoppage, like the one that happened in 2015, only this time against the backdrop of high political stakes re: domestic oil supply, massive inflation that is primarily dramatized through gas prices, and a generalized increase in pro-worker sentiment,” Furman wrote in his newsletter, Who Gets the Bird?.

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