Refinery Strike

Picketers outside the Tesoro refinery in Carson. The USW union said Thursday it reached a tentative contract with Shell. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

By Tiffany Hsu
March 12, 2015

The United Steelworkers reached a tentative contract with Shell Oil Co. on Thursday after more than a month of contentious talks and strikes, union officials said.

The union said it had settled on a new four-year pact with Shell, the lead negotiator for the oil industry, and the U.S. subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands. The deal was reached in Houston.

The previous contract, which covered 30,000 refinery workers nationwide, expired at the end of January. On Feb. 1, the union called for work stoppages, which at last count included 6,500 workers at 15 facilities.

Two California plants owned by Tesoro Corp. in Carson and Martinez were affected. As a safety precaution, the company decided to idle production at the Martinez plant, half of which had already been undergoing maintenance.

The strike has been one contributor to rising gasoline prices, which had previously fallen to levels not seen in years. Although other factors may have had more impact on the rising prices — including an explosion at a Torrance refinery — some analysts believe that the resolution of the labor strike will send prices down.

“Various factors, including the strike, just made the market really unstable,” said analyst Allison Mac of the fuel-tracking firm GasBuddy. “Now that it looks like there’s an end in sight, and more supply will be coming in through Martinez, that will absolutely make the prices go back down.”

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