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After being on strike since February 1, MTD-affiliated United Steelworkers (USW) announced March 12 that the union had reached a tentative agreement with Shell Oil, the designated oil industry company for a national contract pattern.

While some in the national media tried to portray the strike as a campaign to raise wages, the union from the start said the battle was to provide safer working conditions for its members. Talks had taken place for months prior to the walkout with no progress. The proposed pact addressed both issues.

“We salute the solidarity exhibited by our membership,” stated USW President Leo Gerard. “There was no way we would have won vast improvements in safety and staffing without it.”

In a statement released announcing the tentative four-year pact, the union said “safety issues were central to the negotiations. The proposed agreement calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility.”

During its Executive Board meeting in February, the MTD approved a statement of solidarity with the striking Steelworkers. Several port maritime councils including West Gulf (Houston area) and Southern California assisted the struggle locally.

According to the USW, the next step is for Shell and Motiva to put forward the terms of the agreement to their bargaining units. The local unions will review the proposals with approved settlement agreements then submitted to local membership for explanation and ratification votes.

Workers walked out of facilities in Texas, California, Indiana, Ohio and Louisiana. More than 6,000 union members were walking lines during the dispute.