UPDATED: Teamsters authorize strike at St. Paul Park refinery

Workers at Northern Tier refinery in St. Paul Park voted Dec. 16 to authorize their leadership to call a strike if the company continues to demand cuts that, workers say, “could dramatically undermine the safety of operations” at the facility.

Northern Tier is in contract negotiations with about 200 members of Teamsters Local 120 who work at the refinery. Their current contract expires Dec. 31.

If Local 120 members strike, it could affect the supply chain for more than 200 SuperAmerica retail outlets in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin that are owned or operated by Northern Tier. Additionally, Local 120 represents workers at SuperMom’s Bakery, which supplies SuperAmerica stores.

“If there is a strike, SuperAmerica customers will need to go elsewhere for fuel this winter,” Local 120 Business Agent Chris Riley warned.

Joe Riley, a Local 120 member who has worked at the refinery for more than 30 years, said he and his co-workers refuse to allow Norther Tier to put its own profits ahead of their safety on the job.

“Management’s proposals to eliminate jobs, cut wages as much as 40 percent and enforce other onerous changes to working conditions will drive trained professionals away from this very dangerous work,” Joe Riley said.

“In this line of business, we worry every day about an explosion or deadly leak. We just cannot work under the proposed conditions. It isn’t safe.”

*****UPDATE 01/14/14 – Local 120 members at Northern Tier refinery have voted to approve a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract. The two sides struck a deal in the final hours before their previous contract expired Dec. 31.

Local 120 announced the tentative agreement on its website and claimed victory in the dispute, saying management backed away from its demands to cut staffing levels, which prompted safety concerns among workers.

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