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The United Steelworkers union says around 3,800 workers went on strike over the weekend at nine U.S. refineries, including one in Carson, after contract negotiations broke down with Shell Oil Co.

The USW called for the strike after Shell management did not meet union demands regarding safety and health insurance issues, and union officials told the Los Angeles Times that the stoppage is the largest strike of refinery workers since 1980.

USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said in remarks reported by The Times that the union wants a three-year contract and is prepared to broaden the strike to other refineries if the impasse continues. She said no new talks have been scheduled.

United Steelworkers represents about 30,000 workers at refineries, terminals, petrochemical plants and pipelines across the country. Shell is serving as the lead company in national oil bargaining talks with the union.

Around 800 workers are on strike at the Tesoro Carson Refinery, David Campbell of USW Local 675, which represents most refinery workers in Southern California, told The Times.

“As far as how long it goes, no one has a crystal ball,” Campbell said, adding that the Carson refinery workers are prepared to hold out as long as necessary.     USW International President Leo W. Gerard said in a statement that “We had no choice but to give notice of a work stoppage” after “Shell refused to provide us with a counteroffer and left the bargaining table.”

The refineries affected include two in California — Tesoro refineries in Carson and Martinez — five in Texas and one each in Kentucky and Washington.

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