On January 8th, 1980 newly elected International President Robert Goss called a nationwide strike against the oil industry. Because profits for the oil industry were skyrocketing, and the union accepted a lesser raise previously due to U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s 7% anti-inflation lid, the union now wanted a substantial wage increase over the two year package along with a dental plan, plus an improvement in the vacation language. The oil companies were willing to move but not as far as the union wanted so the union, nationwide, hit the bricks. Locally, our membership voted 86% yes in favor of striking.
Walter Von Wald was our assigned International Representative, with Tom Burkholder assisting him. The Texaco committee was made up of: Darrell Hudson, chair, Vern Beirness, Rick Latham, Bob Owings and Bob Mason. Shell’s committee was chaired by Wynn Callahan, along with, Darrell Graves, Jim Vannice, J.B. Bartleson and Don Parnell. The Local’s President was Frank Mann with Don Yates as our Financial Secretary.
24-hour pickets were set up immediately. A comprehensive picket shift schedule was put together. Picket pay was $25 a week. The brothers at Allied Chemical assessed their dues an extra $20 a week to help support the effort. The local’s secretary, Bonnie Riley took voluntary lay off and donated her time to the union for free.
Early strike support came from the Skagit San Juan Central Labor Council and from the Teamster’s Union Local 411 out of Mount Vernon.
Both companies started sending numerous propaganda letters to their employees that were obviously biased in an attempt to weaken the membership. Everyone’s resolve remained strong and no one crossed.
Early into the dispute, Shell decided to take the stance that 80% of the $119,000 medical reserve belonged to them and they wouldn’t agree to let it be used to pay medical claims for the duration of the dispute even though the surplus was created by increases from the hourly employees. The Shell Medical committee worked out an agreement with Skagit Medical which would allow their members to defer payment for three months but then the deferred payments would have to be paid in double at the termination of the strike.
On March 23rd, Ken Kribs while legally picketing, was thrown onto the hood of Texaco Plant Manager Phil Templeton’s car when he romped on the gas as Ken walked in front of him. Templeton then purposefully and viciously accelerated his car for the next 240 feet, then slammed on his brakes attempting to launch Kribs from his hood. The union immediately called the Sheriff’s department. After assessing the incident, Templeton was charged with 2nd degree assault with a deadly weapon. Later at trial, Templeton pled guilty, was fined, put on six months probation and was ordered to perform community service work. Shortly there after, Texaco replaced him with Coleman Ferguson.
On March 22nd, Shell offered the "National Pattern" and the Shell members voted to accept 79 for with 66 against. They were back to work the following day minus J. D. Franulovic who had received a 5-day suspension. Shell also informed the union that Paul Metcalf was going to receive an "unsatisfactory work report" in his file
Because settlement talks were going nowhere, federal mediator Ben Youtsey was called in on March 29th to help facilitate negotiations between Texaco and the union. Their best offer to date was a "me-too" that was rejected earlier in the strike at all Texaco locations.
All through the dispute Texaco disciplined quite a few members for picket line misbehavior, with the most severe being Bill Fischer, who was fired for busting out a back hoe window. These became a stumbling block to the settlement because Texaco refused to discuss them. The union’s contention was that not all were guilty of what they were accused of, albeit some were.
At last, on April 12th, Texaco offered the "National Pattern". The membership voted to accept after the company agreed to reduce Fischer’s termination to 60 calendar days. The union also got the company to reduce Butch Loesch’s from 90 to 30 days, Larry Brinson’s from 60 to 30 days, Jim Johnson’s from 14 to 7 days but they wouldn’t reduce the 14 day suspensions of Tom Livey, Ron Van Luven, Roy Smith or Bill Didway. On April 16th, the strike ended for the Texaco unit.
The gains won nationally by the union were a 5% pay raise, plus an additional 52 cents for the first year with a 10.5% pay raise the second year. And for the first time a dental plan. The union also won a extra week of vacation for employees with 30 years of service. The companies however, were able to negotiate a pay freeze for laborers hired after January 8, 1981.