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Tesoro Workers at Wilmington Oil Refinery Authorize Strike

Union workers at Tesoro Corp.’s Wilmington refinery in Southern California voted to authorize a strike as their contract neared expiration.

The majority of employees at the 97,000-barrel-a-day plant approved giving their bargaining committee the authority to call a strike, the United Steelworkers said in an e-mailed statement. The union local began talks with Tesoro earlier this month on a contract to replace one that runs out at the end of April.

Unions at the Golden Eagle plant in California, Tesoro’s largest refinery, along with workers at Anacortes in Washington and Mandan in North Dakota, have granted strike authority since the company offered a contract that would allow Tesoro to change workers’ benefits without negotiations.

“We are doing everything we can to negotiate in good faith and obtain a fair contract, but if Tesoro fails to do the same they’ll give us no option other than to strike,” Ryan Heustis, union local chairman at the Wilmington refinery, said in the statement.

Tina Barbee, a spokeswoman at Tesoro headquarters in San Antonio, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail or phone messages left after business hours. Tesoro said in an April 7 statement on its website that the company is working “toward ratification of all agreements.”

Contract Extensions

Workers at Tesoro’s Salt Lake City plant and at Kapolei in Hawaii have accepted the company’s offers. Tesoro said it plans to sell Kapolei as soon as the second half of this year.

Tesoro said in the statement that the company hasn’t received strike notices from any of the other plants.

“In the unfortunate event of a work stoppage, we have appropriate contingency plans in place which include operation of selected sites with qualified personnel,” the company said on its website. “Our contingency plans will of course maintain our vigilant approach to safety and care for the environment.”

Employees at Anacortes, Golden Eagle and Mandan have been working on 24-hour rolling extensions of contracts that were initially set to expire Jan. 31. United Steelworkers members distributed leaflets at Tesoro-owned gas stations over the weekend about the contract disputes.

Tesoro “wants the right to change pension, 401(k), health care and vacation benefits during the next contract without having to bargain with the union,” the United Steelworkers, based in Pittsburgh, said in an e-mailed statement on March 13.

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