Local Business news from the Finally Fast Team
When Sunoco Inc. announced last September it would shut down the company’s Philadelphia refinery if a buyer was not found, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 10-1 leaders and members were given little hope of keeping their refinery alive. Ten months later, after a hard-fought campaign waged by the local and international union, Local 10-1 members ratified a new contract with a new owner, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, which is a joint partnership between The Carlyle Group and Sunoco.
“I am extremely proud of the local union leadership and members who refused to believe there was no hope,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “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.”
USW Locals 10-1, 10-901 and 10-234 led the campaign to find buyers for the two Sunoco facilities in Philadelphia and Marcus Hook and the former ConocoPhillips refinery. Last fall they contacted local, state and national elected leaders and persuaded them to help find buyers and keep the refineries operating. They 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.
Meanwhile 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.
“Our members worked hard to ensure there would be good, family-supporting jobs in their communities,” said USW International Vice President Tom Conway. “Most important, they clearly communicated how consumers and their local communities would be negatively impacted by the refinery shutdowns. Once the elected officials and the public understood this, positive change began.”
Conway and Gary Beevers, the USW International Vice President who heads the union’s national oil bargaining program, sat down with Phil Rinaldi, who will serve as the CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, to discuss the parameters of an agreement.
“This new three-year agreement enables the company to make large investments that will result in hundreds of new jobs,” Beevers said. “It gives the company more flexibility, while providing industry-standard wages, benefits, and health and safety protections.”
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.”
The USW represents 600 hourly employees at the Philadelphia refinery.