By Jarrett Renshaw TOLEDO, Ohio (Reuters) - U.S. oil refinery managers are going to the mats, literally, during the biggest fight with union workers in 35 years, bedding down for a third strike week that experts and some employees say raises concerns over safety and operations. At the 135,000 barrel-per-day refinery just outside of Toledo, Ohio, run by BP Plc and Husky Energy Inc , most of the nearly 300-person staff have been calling the refinery home since Feb. 9. For the last week, they have slept on recently purchased mattresses inside rental trailers to rapidly respond to any problems and avoid striking workers, sources say. On Tuesday, a van full of washing and drying machines gingerly cut through about a dozen United Steelworkers carrying pickets and walking a strike line at the facility's front gate. Those efforts underscore how far operators are willing to go to retain normalcy in the face of the largest national U.S. refinery strike since 1980. And as more replacement workers join the ranks here and the other eight refineries where strikes have occurred, more questions are arising about potential safety and production risks from an extended walkout. While such warnings may seem a self-serving negotiating tactic, even some on the other side of the line are concerned. John Ostberg, a non-union control engineer who works in the main computerized control center at Toledo, quit his job on Monday weeks before he was scheduled to retire. For months, Ostberg has been warning his bosses in emails about their plans to rely on replacement workers and supervisors if a strike occurred. He feared they were not properly trained, or too far removed from the frontlines, to respond to unit upsets and other problems that can escalate quickly without experienced intervention. “Management says it’s safe. I disagree,” Ostberg said in a phone interview on Thursday. BP spokesman Scott Dean said the company does not discuss publicly discuss personnel issues, but did provide highlights of the refinery's safety record, such as how workers logged 15 million man hours, or 39 months, without a serious injury by June 2014. Husky Energy deferred all questions to BP. In dozens of interviews with local USW workers, craftsman and experts, a portrait of the day-to-day role they play emerges: monitoring large electronic boards that detect problems, turning valves, checking the quality of refined products and overseeing work permits. But their biggest contribution, the people say, is serving as the refinery’s frontline defense when things go wrong. Chad Coburtson, president of the USW local at the Toledo refinery, described his members' role this way: "The steelworkers are like the nails in the frame. Without us the structure will crumble.” At least three of the nine U.S. oil refineries targeted by a nationwide strike of USW members have reported upsets and unplanned repairs since their workers walked out on Feb 1. There is no indication of what caused the upsets, none of which resulted in any harm or serious damage to equipment. TURNING WRENCHES BP Husky’s strategy will get its first real test this week when it attempts to restart its catalytic cracker, a major gasoline-producing unit that unexpectedly went down a few weeks ago. About 100 contract workers have been working around the clock to restart the unit on Wednesday, a source said. “BP has trained multiple workers for every operations position normally performed by a striking USW employee. These replacement workers are comprised primarily of current and former BP employees who have been trained to the same legally required and BP-mandated standards as regular workers," BP spokesman Scott Dean said in an email. Mark Broadbent, a research analyst with consultants Wood Mackenzie, said the longer the strikes last, the more exposed the refineries may be to disruptions caused by unit upsets. "They are experienced. They know their facilities, what valves to turn. Their response time is much quicker, and they can easily resolve problems when units flare up,” he said. “The companies have certainly shown they are capable of running the refineries, but over time, as more upsets occur, they will likely not be handled as quickly.” At Tesoro Corp's refinery in Martinez, California, managers and other non-union employees are sleeping in tents inside a centralized control room while they monitor the currently idle plant, according to striking workers at the site. Criff Reyes, who has worked in the refinery's alkylation unit for 16 years, says he believes that Tesoro opted to shut down the plant - rather than restart it following maintenance - because managers are not qualified or experienced enough to run it after about 400 USW members walked out. Tesoro spokeswoman Tina Barbee said the employees at the refinery are the "same ones who provide technical support to the facilities, supervise the operators on a daily basis and train them in how to safely operate the refineries." THREE TO ONE Currently, there are 320 workers at Toledo refinery represented by the USW and about 278 non-union employees, according to BP. At any given time, there are also anywhere from 300 to 1,000 contract workers at the refinery. During most days, USW workers are outnumbered by contractors by 3-to-1, building trade and union sources said. The USW used to have members in a boiler and carpenter shop, but now that work has gone to contract workers. Typically, USW workers are responsible for shutting down a unit, while contractors do the work. But there are a host of jobs at the refinery that do not fall neatly in the project category done by contractors work and operations done by USW. This type of work is described as routine maintenance - replacing wires, screens and other tasks - and it is at the heart of the disagreement between the USW and the companies. USW says these jobs are routine tasks closely aligned to operations while the companies want to retain the flexibility that comes with contract workers - sometimes represented by their own unions - and limit their exposure to USW strikes. The issue has divided traditional allies. "On one hand, we are union brothers and sisters and we support them," said one local leader in the building trades. "On the other hand, they want our jobs, so it's not like we can picket with them." Inspectors have visited refineries in Carson, California, and Catlettsburg, Kentucky, where strikes have occurred to determine whether the replacement workers have the proper training and qualifications. In Kentucky, inspectors from the state's Department of Labor were responding to a complaint, while California inspectors from the state's Department of Industrial Relations were already at the site for a routine visit and decided to expand their inquiry. Both the Kentucky and California investigations are ongoing, officials said Friday. Inspectors from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the lead agency in Ohio, have not visited Toledo, officials said Friday. THE FINAL STRAW Ostberg, the 56-year-old engineer who worked at Toledo since 1980, helped run the refinery operating center, known locally as the ROC, the heart of the plant. Behind a blast-proof wall, Ostberg and others monitor the dozens of units that populate the refinery to ensure things are running properly and alert USW workers manning the units when they are not. Toledo is an integrated system, which means each unit depends on another for feedstock. So, if there is a problem with one unit, it can quickly grow to other units and often takes more manpower to put under control. “I sit behind a blast-proof wall, so I’m not worried about my safety," he says. "But I fear for everyone else.” (Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting
Rest in peace, rockstar.
- The Daily Beast
Reuters/Arnd WiegmannTheatrical rock superstar Meat Loaf, whose Bat Out of Hell is one of the bestselling albums of all time, has died at the age of 74. Reports say the singer and actor had recently fallen sick with COVID-19.In an emotional statement posted to Facebook early Friday, the performer’s family said he was with his wife when he died and had said his final goodbyes to his two daughters in the past 24 hours. The star sold 100 million albums in his five-decade career and starred in movie
- Access Hollywood
Arnold Schwarzenegger was involved in a serious car accident. The actor was in a crash while driving his Yukon SUV near his home in Los Angeles at around 5PM PT on Friday, as seen in photos obtained by TMZ. The 74-year-old’s Yukon SUV was photographed on top of a red Prius.
The Keeping Up the Kardashians alum posted a series of images of herself only wearing a bikini, fuzzy boots and sunglasses during a ski trip in Aspen, Colorado on Thursday
Dakota Johnson made an appearance on 'The Late Late Show' last night, wearing a red Magda Butrym mini dress so short that Johnson was a little worried. James Corden noticed and offered his jacket to Johnson on camera in a slightly awkward exchange.
A neighbour made the grim discovery after peering through his window.
- Business Insider
The former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis says the January 6 committee members are subpoenaing her because they're 'mad they can't date' her
Ellis was subpoenaed on Tuesday, along with the former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Boris Epshteyn.
The January 6 committee obtained a draft of post-insurrection White House remarks that said 'the election fight is over.' Trump gave a speech but left out that sentence.
The House committee probing the Capitol riot has obtained a document from the Trump White House titled "Remarks on National Healing," per Politico.
- The Hollywood Reporter
Regina King’s son Ian Alexander Jr. has died at 26, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. “Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian,” said King in a statement obtained by THR on Friday evening. “He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our […]
- The Daily Beast
ABCOn Thursday night, Jimmy Kimmel gleefully ran down the significant legal problems facing former President Donald Trump during his monologue.“The legal woes for Trump are piling up,” said Kimmel. “The attorney general in New York says she has evidence that the Trump Organization engaged in a pattern of deception, and today we learned that the DA in Fulton County, Georgia, has requested a special grand jury to look into his post-election shenanigans there. On top of that, the Supreme Court clea
- Country Living
With 12 seasons portraying Danny Reagan on the hit show Blue Bloods under his belt, it's safe to say Donnie Wahlberg is comfortable in front of the camera. But some fans may not know about his behind-the-scenes work.
Two Canadians died of gunshot wounds after an argument turned violent at a resort near Cancun on Mexico's Caribbean coast, authorities said on Friday. Both guests at the upscale resort on the Riviera Maya of Quintana Roo state had criminal records, said Mexican officials, citing information from the Canadian police. Mexican police are searching for another person thought to have fired the shots who had a "long" criminal record in Canada, said the attorney general's office in Quintana Roo, home to a stretch of white-sand beach resorts and lush jungles.
- Tacoma News Tribune
A wall of water 60 feet high could hit some coastal areas of Washington state.
- USA TODAY Opinion
If successful, a civil action for fraud under New York law could expose Trump to millions of dollars in damages and even dissolution of his business.
- The Daily Beast
HandoutRosie Diven, a mother of three in rural South Carolina, had no idea her 16-year-old son had COVID-19 until a fearsome syndrome nearly killed him.Branson Diven had been vomiting and suffering a loss of appetite when Rosie brought him to an urgent care center near their home in Hartsville on Dec. 10. He did not have classic COVID symptoms such as a sore throat or a cough, and after testing negative for COVID and positive for flu, he was sent home under the assumption he would soon be better
- Footwear News
Britney Spears makes purple look edgy.
- The Daily Beast
Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesWe’ve been lulled into believing Donald Trump is made of Teflon. He was, after all, the guy who boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote.But Trump’s luck began to run out in early 2021—when he lost the White House, Air Force One, and his Twitter account inside a few weeks. His days of getting away with conduct that would sink anyone else appear to be over. He could even start losing so much that he’ll get sick of losing.Trump was met wi
A man says he lives in one of New York City's smallest apartments for $950 a month. Take a look inside the 100-square-foot space.
"In New York, you're always out and about, so the city is kind of your living room," Ron Ervin told Insider of the tiny apartment in Harlem.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene sold up to $15,000 worth of Activision Blizzard stock on the day Microsoft announced plans to buy the video game company
In September, Greene told Insider that, "I have an independent investment advisor that has full discretionary authority on my accounts."
The Senate minority leader's office says he was referring to turnout rates, but that didn't quell the Democratic backlash: "Being American is not synonymous with looking or thinking like you," one said