Striking Norco refinery workers get support

NEW ORLEANS -- It's day four of the strike, and while the Shell oil refinery in Norco continued operations using managers and contract employees, the 550 picketing United Steelworkers endured the rainy cold while passing drivers honked in support.

"Nobody likes this. Nobody wins in a strike," said Steelworkers Local 750 spokesman Bryan Shelton. "We're all positive. We're in it for the long haul, but naturally everybody is concerned. We want to get back in the plant, we want to do our jobs, but we want a fair contract."

They say it is not uncommon for workers to have 600 hours of overtime in a year, and they worry about worker and community safety if an accident occurs.

"We're all working quite a bit of overtime, and actually our facility has better fatigue management policies than most," Shelton noted. "We feel we are understaffed to sustain what we're asked to do."

"I've been in communication with the steelworkers now for about 10 years, and every year I hear the same story, they're laying off one or two trained people every year," said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

So activist groups joined strikers on they picket lines, claiming 500 accidents here in the last decade.

"The national Sierra Club is in strong support of the workers' rights to strike," said Darryl Malek-Wiley of the Sierra Club.

But striking workers do worry about what happens to them financially if the walk out drags on.

"We have a tentative agreement on our local issues," said Shelton. "And we have a good relationship with management, and hopefully when we go back in we'll still have a good relationship with management."

So here they're waiting to see what happens with the national union negotiations. Right now talks have broken off, and they say no new talks have been set at this point. But here they're hoping that talks will resume, and the strike end by the end of the week.


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