UFCW pickets v. Exxon-Mobil

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Typical labor-state bargaining tactic for RICO-challenged union

Union organizers rallied at Montville (CT) Exxon Mobil on Interstate 395 Wednesday, alleging the company is stalling while bargaining for a contract with workers. At the request of Exxon Mobil, state police broke up the 10 a.m. rally and asked organizers and a crowd of about 30 people with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 919 to move to a grassy island in the parking lot so as not to obstruct business in front of the gas pumps and convenience store, said union President Mark Espinosa.

Participants complied, he said.

Exxon Mobil spokesperson Beth Snyder confirmed that the company requested the relocation to ensure business wasn't interrupted and that customers remained safe.

The state leases the property to Exxon Mobil, Espinosa said. State police could not be reached for comment.

”We want to send a message back to Mobil that we are not going to go down without a fight, and we're not going to have employees' concerns swept under the rug,” Espinosa said.

Exxon Mobil recently announced it will, over time, sell off 25 percent of its gas stations because of reduced profit margins.

”They've indicated the lease expires February of 2009, and whether or not they've got a buyer, they are going to shut this station,” Espinosa said.

Snyder said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on ongoing negotiations with the state regarding the continued leasing or possible sale of the property, which she could not confirm or deny.

The union was certified last October, but union attorney J. William Gagne Jr. has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Exxon Mobil Corp. is refusing to bargain in good faith.

Espinoza said the company would only meet monthly with the union, which believes at least twice-monthly meetings are necessary.

”Stalling as the company has done only deters us from our goal and helps disenfranchise the employees,” he said.

Exxon's last offer was to dock the 12 Montville workers 10 cents and hour, he said.

Snyder could not comment on particular negotiation time frames or proposals, she said, but confirmed talks are “ongoing.”

Members of UFCW Local 1459 of Springfield, Mass., Local 328 of Providence and Local 371 Norwalk showed up for the rally, Espinosa said. By 11 a.m., most had left the property, but a handful of organizers and workers remained.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 28, Espinosa said.


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