Exxon accuses USW of 'voter suppression' in message to locked-out Texas refinery workers

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United Steelworkers union members picket outside the Exxon Mobil Beaumont, after being locked out of the plant by the company, in Beaumont, Texas, May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Erwin Seba

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HOUSTON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) in a message to locked-out workers at its Beaumont, Texas, refinery accused the United Steelworkers union (USW) of misinformation and voter suppression, a day after a campaign to remove the union cleared a crucial hurdle.

"We look forward to continuing to give the facts, particularly as the USW continues its campaign of misinformation and voter suppression," the company said in the message posted online late on Thursday.

A USW spokesperson said the union would not have a response on Thursday night.

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On Wednesday, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) told the company and the union it received a petition calling for a vote to remove the union, with signatures from 30% of Exxon Beaumont employees represented by USW local union 13-243.

No date has been set for a decertification vote, which could take months to arrange.

In Thursday's message, Exxon noted that most U.S. employees are not represented by a labor union.

"In fact, 94% of private U.S. workers do not have a union. There are many good reasons for this," Exxon said.

Exxon locked out 650 workers from their jobs on May 1 at the 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) Beaumont refinery and adjoining lubricant oil plant.

Exxon said the lockout was to avoid the disruption from a possible strike after the union refused during months of talks to agree to a contract offer. The contract was needed to assure profitability in all circumstances, the company said.

The USW said the company's proposal would wipe out seniority and create separate contracts for workers at the refinery and lubricant oil plant.

The USW in April filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging Exxon had violated federal law by providing an employee with decertification materials, employee email addresses, and use of a company computer and email system to campaign for decertification.

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Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Tom Hogue

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