Aruban oil workers strike for new contracts, 2006


To come to an agreement with Valero for a new three to four-year contract for better wages, benefits, and vacation days.

Time period

November 28, 2006 to December 4, 2006



Location City/State/Province

San Nicolas

Location Description

Valero Refinery
Jump to case narrative

Segment Length

Approximately 1 day


Jay Jeffries, United Steelworkers International Union


Not Known

External allies

Not Known

Involvement of social elites

Jerry Rasmijn of the Aruban government helped in the negotiations


Valero, Ray Buckley

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not Known

Campaigner violence

Not Known

Repressive Violence

Not Known


Economic Justice
Human Rights



Group characterization

industrial workers

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Joining order not known

Segment Length

Approximately 1 day

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

7 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The employees of the refinery received significant wage and shift differential increases, improvements to their pension plans, and enhancements to insurance programs. They compromised with Valero and signed a five year contract instead of a three or four-year contract, which they hoped to receive.

Database Narrative

In  2004, Valero, the largest independent oil refiner in the United States, bought a refinery plant on the coast of Aruba. The workers of the refinery were a part of the Independent Oil Workers Union of Aruba. In September 2006, they signed an agreement to become members of the United Steelworkers International Union. At this time, Jay Jeffries, the lead negotiator from the United Steel Workers, met with Ray Buckley, vice president and general manager of the refinery, to discuss a new contract for the refinery workers.

Although Union officials and Valero worked on a new agreement from September on, they failed to finalize a contract. On Tuesday November 28, half of the workforce, about 385 workers, went on strike and asked for higher pay and more benefits. Since the non-unionized workers did not participate in the strike, the refinery maintained operation at normal pace while some of the workers went on strike.

On Wednesday November 29, 15% of the workers (about 50 workers) returned to work. Despite this partial capitulation, the strike remained strong. Valero executives argued that union workers had no right to strike because the company gave its workers very competitive wages and benefit packages compared to other jobs on the island. Their previous contract included a 47% increase in salary and benefits over their five-year contract, as well as a 12% boost in salary and benefits the first year of working for Valero.

Valero attempted to convince employees that their contracts were fair. They reminded workers that they no longer had to pay three percent of their income to their pension plan, as Valero covered those costs. Valero also invested $360 million to make the refinery safer, more reliable and more environmentally friendly for its workers. However, workers insisted on a three to four-year contract instead of a five-year contract, better wages, and more vacation days. Employees asked for vacation days that were in accord with the island lifestyle, but Valero wanted to give them the same vacation time that they gave to workers in the United States.

On December 4, 2006, union workers ended the strike by signing a five-year contract with Valero. Jerry Rasmijn, a mediator from the Aruban government, helped both Buckley and Jeffries come to an agreement for the workers and the company. The package included significant wage and shift differential increases, improvements to their pension plans, and enhancements to insurance programs. 95% of the employees accepted the agreement and planned to return to work the next day on December 5.


- "Aruba Refinery Normal Despite Strike." Rep. no. 229. Vol. 84. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.
- "Aruba Refinery Operating at Normal Rates Despite Strike." Rep. no. 231. Vol. 84. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.
- Kelber, Harry. "The World of Labor." The Labor Educator. 2 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.
- Saville, Kevin. "Valero, Union in Deal at Aruba Refinery, Ending Strike." Rep. no. 233. Vol. 84. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.
- "Refinery Workers Strike Over Pay." Miami Herald 30 Nov. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.
- "Valero, Aruba Union Reach New Labor Agreement, End Strike." San Antonio Business Journal. 5 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.
- Vaughan, Vicki. "Valero Hit By a Strike at Its Refinery in Aruba." San Antonio Express-News. 30 Nov. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.
- "Workers Strike at Valero Aruba Refinery." Reuters. 29 Nov. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.

Additional Notes

Edited by Max Rennebohm (10/06/2011)

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Nicole Vanchieri, 26/02/2011