Teamsters aren’t the only union members Marathon is looking to replace with nonunion, out-of-state workers at the St. Paul Park refinery.
They aren’t the only ones fighting back, either.
Earlier this month, several Building and Construction Trades unions began setting up banners around the refinery, publicly shaming Marathon for turning its back on Minnesota contractors and tradespeople – and for putting the safety of St. Paul Park and surrounding communities at risk.
Although some of the banners are within shouting distance of locked-out Teamsters’ picket lines, the two disputes are not connected. Both reflect a troubling disregard for community safety on Marathon’s part, however.
“Marathon has been going down this pathway for a long time,” Don Mullin, executive secretary of the St. Paul Building and Construction Trades Council, said. “They’ve been taking on efforts to be anti-organized labor because that’s the way they do it in other states.”
The dispute heated up this year after Marathon informed a union contractor there was no work forthcoming at the refinery, despite a scheduled maintenance turnaround beginning in late April. Turnarounds involve dangerous work, Mullin said, and can mean hundreds, even thousands, of jobs for tradespeople at a refinery like the one in St. Paul Park.
But rather than trust that work to highly skilled tradespeople who live and work in the area, Marathon is cutting costs by bringing in workers from across the country.
Not only does that undermine Minnesota’s labor standards, Building Trades unions say, it calls into question the safety of work being done at the refinery, located near homes and businesses in St. Paul Park and Newport.
Mullin accused Marathon of scraping the “bottom of the barrel” for tradespeople, bringing them in from Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and elsewhere. He said unions are taking a stand because Minnesota deserves better, and he encouraged members of the public to do the same.
“It’s disgusting what Marathon is doing,” Mullin said. “We need to write Marathon or call them and tell them this is the wrong way to handle their business. They need to be a good community partner. Right now they’re not.”