The workers at Tesoro Refineries and other refineries have gone on strike. The companies were engaged in talks to avoid a strike, but the talks broke down. Is that surprising? Workers today are exposed to and required to commit illegal or simply unethical acts with some frequency. The refinery workers were required to work overtime every week, whether they wanted to or not. Why? Because the employers refused to hire more workers. The unions wanted the companies to hire apprentices to learn the trade, so there would be more skilled workers available. The companies refused. See Houston Chronicle report (account required).

And, as the reporter mentions, many workers in many different trades see and experience the employer lying about a fundamental fact, whether the employee is actually an employee. For perhaps the past 15 years, employers across the country have been trying to reduce costs by claiming workers are actually “independent contractors.” By claiming them to be independent contractors, employers can save expenses regarding fringe benefits. I get that and do not necessarily disagree. But, what corporate climate does an outright lie foster? Most employees have to wonder, if the employer lies about that, what else are they lying about? Distrust breeds strikes and break downs in talks.

No, the refineries are not hurting from the oil slowdown, yet. They made impressive profits, last year. The reporter’s point is that without training, there will always be a shortage of skilled workers. His other point is that changing the status of a worker from employee to independent contractor diminishes that worker. The employer saves a few dollars, but the worker feels less connected or obligated to the company. Group cohesion is necessary for every work force.