Things looked bleak for United Steelworkers Local 10-1 last September when Sunoco Inc. announced it would shut down its Philadelphia refinery if a buyer was not found. But after a hard-fought, ten-month campaign waged by the local and international union, USW Local 10-1 members ratified a contract with a new owner, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, a joint partnership between The Carlyle Group and Sunoco.
USW International President Leo W. Gerard said:
I am extremely proud of the local union leadership and members who refused to believe there was no hope. I don’t think this refinery would have been sold if there hadn’t been a union to fight for this facility and to fight for the survival of the surrounding communities.
Last fall, USW Locals 10-1, 10-901 and 10-234 led the charge to find buyers for the two Sunoco facilities in Philadelphia and Marcus Hook as well as the ConocoPhillips refinery. They contacted local, state and national elected leaders and persuaded them to help find buyers to keep the refineries operating. Union members researched industry trends and discussed financial strategies while writing thousands of letters, obtaining signatures for petitions and holding rallies and demonstrations. They also involved the building trades and other union and community groups in the campaign.
While the local unions waged the ground campaign, the international union searched for buyers for the three refineries and reached out for assistance from the Obama administration. Top USW officials contacted The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, with which it had a prior relationship.
USW International Vice President Tom Conway said union members worked hard to keep good paying jobs in the community:
Most important, they [the workers] clearly communicated how consumers and their local communities would be negatively impacted by the refinery shutdowns. Once elected officials and the public understood this, positive change began.
The USW represents 600 hourly employees at the Philadelphia refinery.
USW Local 10-1 President Jim Savage said:
We are pleased to announce the ratification of our labor agreement with Philadelphia Energy Solutions. It passed overwhelmingly by 98 percent. The terms of the agreement meet the standards consistent with the national pattern and represent the culmination of very hard work by our negotiating committee, with tremendous support from the international union. We are both proud and thankful of the efforts of so many people who worked so hard on our behalf. Nothing is impossible.
To see the timeline of the Philadelphia-area refineries campaign, click HERE.
To see the narrative about the campaign, click HERE.