United Steelworkers chief urges making decarbonization part of oil company labor talks

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The international president of the United Steelworkers (USW) union, Thomas Conway, called on Monday for refinery and chemical plant workers to include decarbonization as part of contract proposals to be made to U.S. oil companies in January.

In remarks to the USW national oil bargaining policy conference, Conway said decarbonization projects should be viewed as necessary capital investment programs.

“Here sits the capital investment program that we need to keep our refineries up and running and keep the pressure off of them from the communities that would otherwise shut them down,” Conway said.

Officials from local unions representing 30,000 refinery and chemical plant workers are meeting online this week to develop proposals to be used in talks in January with Marathon Petroleum Corp, which is representing the nation’s oil companies for the first time.

Marathon, the nation’s largest refiner, was chosen to replace Shell Oil Co, the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell, which was the lead negotiator for the oil companies from the late 1990s through 2019. Shell has reduced the number of the refineries it operates in the United States and by the end of this year will operate only one plant.

The 2022 contract talks will come after national refining capacity fell 4.5% in the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Leslie Adler)