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The Union Oil Co. - the People


Employees at the Oil Terminal

For the most part, operations at oil berths are kept confidential and no visitors are allowed on the premises without permission from the oil company. For this reason, very few photographs are available of oil laborers working at the terminals. In addition, unlike other terminals at the Port, few workers were assigned to work daily shifts because much of the activity occurred at the refinery or when a ship arrived at the berth.

Oil workers at the Port's oil terminals are unionized and most belong to the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union. Two to five people comprise a work unit at the oil terminal and refinery. Strong bonds are formed allowing the crew to work smoothly. The crew tends to stay together for a year and then a new unit is formed. In earlier years, crews and crew leaders were shifted constantly, making it difficult to build strong ties or work closely together, as the laborers often did not know the people they were assigned to work with.

Before the 1960s, oil companies typically instituted three 8-hour shifts for employees: the day shift, the swing shift, and the night shift. Three employees worked the day shift; one laborer was in charge of terminal operations, a second dealt with gauging light-end products (e.g., diesel and gasoline), and the third worker handled all dock operations. This employee stocked and cleaned the docks, tested hoses for leaks, and worked the ships when they docked. One employee was assigned to work the swing shift and another the night shift. During the latter two shifts, the individual worker was responsible for all wharf side operations, including gauging product in the tanks and overseeing the dock facility. When a ship came into the berth, the employee on duty called in extra workers from the refinery.

Today, employees are assigned a 12-hour shift around the clock. During their shift, each employee is in charge of the offsite refinery and the marine terminal. Tasks include watching tank levels, taking tank level readings, and notifying the State Lands Commission if a ship or barge comes in to offload product. The employee is also responsible for completing the necessary paperwork for the state and other agencies when a vessel docks at the terminal. If an oil spill occurs, this worker notifies his or her superiors of an emergency and a general alarm is sounded. A call for a general alarm beckons different agencies, including the fire department and a spill control and cleanup firm. Everyone works together to contend with the oil problem in the water.