Members of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union are planning to distribute leaflets in neighborhoods near the Mobil Oil Corp. refinery in Torrance, claiming there is a potential safety hazard if refinery workers go on strike next week.
Local union officials Tuesday told the Torrance City Council that the Mobil refinery cannot be operated safely if they walk off the job when the union's national contract with the oil industry expires at midnight Sunday.
"We're worried about the refinery's safe operation," said Steve Sullivan, president of Local 1-547 in Lawndale. "Without qualified personnel, these giant refineries can become a ticking time bomb."
Sullivan's remarks drew a sharp retort from Councilman Bill Applegate, who said he resented the union's effort to "instill some type of fear into the community."
Mayor Katy Geissert added that the union was "attempting to drag the city into a labor dispute." She said the union leader's remarks were out of order.
Tom Gregory, Mobil's manager of safety and training, said contract negotiations are still in progress and he declined to comment on the union's tactics.
"If a strike occurs," Gregory said, "we will run the refinery."
Torrance City Manager LeRoy Jackson told council members that his staff is expected to complete a study on safety at the refinery in several weeks. The report was requested by council members after a major explosion and fire at the facility in November.