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BP strikers out in force at BP refinery
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BP strikers out in force at BP refinery

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Rain on the first day of the strike at the BP Whiting Refinery failed to dampen the spirits of strikers and union officials at picket lines outside the fences of the sprawling complex.

"We are out here to get a fair settlement from BP," said United Steel Workers Local 7-1 President David Danko, who was surrounded Sunday afternoon by picketers at the corner of 129th Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard.

The BP Whiting Refinery's union workforce hit the picket lines at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, following workers at nine other refineries nationwide who went on strike one week ago. More than 1,000 USW members are now on strike in Whiting.

Danko spoke Sunday in front of a burn barrel surrounded by a small pile of split wood, where pickets could go to keep warm. Adrienne Leluga, of Crown Point, brought her children and hot coffee to the 129th and Indianapolis Boulevard picket line just before 1 p.m.

"We are just here to support my husband, Dave, and the others," she said. "This is about the families too."

Until now, BP refineries had been spared from the strike, with the USW targeting refineries run by Shell Oil Co., which is leading negotiations on a new national contract.

BP spokesman Scott Dean on Friday said the company was disappointed the USW had decided to call a strike at both Whiting Refinery and BP-Husky Toledo Refinery. He said the company still hoped there would be a settlement allowing a new three-year contract to be signed.

BP has trained replacement workers — primarily current and former BP employees — to safely operate the refinery, Dean said.

Danko said issues in the strike include safety, medical benefits, forced overtime and contracting out of work.

"We think this is a wake-up call for this industry," Danko said. "We are standing up for our families and also for our communities."

Talks were broken off Friday, Danko said. No new talks are scheduled, but the union leader was hopeful the two sides would be sitting down to bargain again soon.

Earlier this month, BP froze pay for all nonunion employees in the company and reported a $4.4 billion quarterly loss after crude oil prices plunged.

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