A work stoppage at Marathon Petroleum's St. Paul Park refinery is entering its eighth week with no end in sight.
Marathon has continued operating the refinery with management employees from St. Paul Park and its other refineries while 200 Teamsters said they are now being locked out of their jobs after offering to return to work.
Marathon's contract with Teamsters Local 120 expired Dec. 31, and the union went on strike Jan. 21, primarily over the issue of subcontracting maintenance work.
The union said that Marathon's contract offer would cost it more than 40 jobs, with Teamster workers being replaced by employees of contractors.
"They want to subcontract these skilled workers' jobs out to less skilled workers," said Scott Kroona, business agent for Local 120.
"The model that Marathon has been adopting [nationally] has been to get rid of union workers for nonunion subcontract workers."
In a statement, Marathon said its contract offer "includes subcontracting for only one job, and this role would only be subcontracted after the employee currently in the role decides to exit the role."
After numerous bargaining sessions, Teamsters Local 120 voted 167-4 to reject Marathon's last offer and went on strike. It's now a lockout, the union maintains, meaning workers can't return to work unless they agree to the company's conditions.
"We did a 24-hour strike and then offered an unconditional return to work and the company locked the doors on us and said we were trespassing," Kroona said.
Marathon dismissed the notion of a lockout, saying the union remains on strike.
Kroona said the Teamsters and Marathon tentatively have talks scheduled for March 19 and March 23, though he noted that previous post-strike negotiations have gone nowhere.
Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon, the nation's largest oil refiner, bought the St. Paul Park refinery in 2018. The property was part of Marathon's $23 billion buyout of San Antonio-based Andeavor LLC.
Marathon Petroleum's corporate predecessor, Marathon Oil, co-owned or owned the St. Paul Park refinery from 1997 to 2010.
Several Minnesota DFL elected officials have written to Marathon executives to end the work stoppage, including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents St. Paul Park residents. Gov. Tim Walz joined a picket-line rally in February.
Echoing the Teamsters, they said Marathon's contract offer would compromise safety at the refinery — and for the surrounding community, given the potentially explosive nature of refinery accidents.
"The breakdown of contract negotiations and the use of outside contractors by Marathon raises serious questions about safety," McCollum said in her letter.
Marathon rejected that idea, saying its safety commitment extends to its selection of contractors.
"We award our contracts based on a comprehensive evaluation process, selecting companies that have exemplary safety records."
Marathon, the prime gasoline supplier to Speedway stations in the Twin Cities, is one of two oil refineries in Minnesota, the other being the larger Flint Hills Resources refinery in Rosemount.
In 2018, Marathon re-christened the SuperAmerica chain to its Speedway brand. Last August, Marathon agreed to sell its entire Speedway chain for $21 billion to Tokyo-based Seven & I Holdings, owner of the 7-Eleven brand.
The deal has been expected to close during this quarter, pending approval from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Earlier this week, International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James P. Hoffa asked the FTC to "pause" its review of the deal.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003