HOUSTON — Police blocked several hundred striking laborers from entering Shell Oil Co.’s downtown Houston headquarters during a protest on Friday to demand a new labor contract for U.S. refinery workers.
Officers quickly moved to guard entrances to the 50-story building as the workers climbed stairs leading to public doorways. There were no arrests or scuffles.
“We wanted to see if they would talk to us about the negotiations,” said Lee Medley, president of United Steelworkers union local 13-1, which represents workers striking at Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Galveston Bay, Texas, Refinery and Shell’s joint-venture Deer Park, Texas Refinery.
Lead U.S. refinery owner representative Shell, the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell Plc., has been negotiating with the USW for more than seven weeks for a new three-year contract covering 30,000 workers at some 60 refineries and chemical plants nationwide.
Workers have walked off their jobs at 15 plants including 12 refineries that account for one-fifth of U.S. refining capacity in a strike that is completing its fifth week.
Under orders from several police officers, the protesters moved back down the stairs to the street and continued marching around the building and then moved on to the headquarters of Lyondell Basell.
A Houston Police Department spokeswoman said the agency had no immediate statement about the incident.
“Shell respects the right for people to peacefully protest,” said Shell spokeswoman Kimberly Windon. “We remain committed to continuing negotiations with the USW with the ultimate goal of reaching a mutual, acceptable agreement for both parties.”
Shell and the USW are scheduled to renew face-to-face negotiations on Monday in Houston after meeting by telephone on Wednesday. Talks broke off on Feb. 20 after refinery owners balked at a settlement. The USW then ordered workers at three Motiva Enterprises refineries to strike.