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Worker Lockout Could Cost Exxon Tens of Millions

The company told employees that they could come back to work as long as they decertified the union.

On Monday, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against what it calls Exxon Mobil's "unlawful" effort to boot the United Steelworkers union that represented workers at a Texas plant. Some 600 workers at the Exxon refinery in Beaumont were locked out of the refinery and lube oil plant for 10 months, from May 2021 to March 2022.

According to Reuters, among the damages, the NLRB is asking the court to issue back pay to employees, which could cost the company tens of millions of dollars. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, refinery workers average about $73,830 per year as of 2019. Let just say that 600 workers made the average, that works out to about $35 million in back wages. 

A hearing is scheduled for January and an Exxon spokesperson says the company acted in accordance with the law. 

The sticking point appears to be messages the company sent to locked-out workers. According to the NLRB, the correspondence told employees that they could come back to work as long as they decertified the union. 

The union issued a strike notice during contract talks in January 2021. Exxon says it initiated the lockout to prevent supply disruptions at the facility, which processes nearly 370,000 barrels per day. The company kept the plant running with replacement workers and transfers from other facilities. 

Despite the company's efforts, in March, workers voted to retain its union representation.

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