The United Steelworkers Union called for workers to strike at nine refineries mostly in Texas and California early Sunday, saying its negotiations with the Shell Oil Company broke down less than two weeks after they began.

The union asked about 3,800 workers at the refineries to strike shortly after their previous contract expired after midnight.

Negotiations over a new contract started Jan. 21. The call for a strike happened after United Steelworkers, or USW, rejected Shell’s fourth contract offer. The union said Shell refused to provide a counteroffer and that the company’s representatives had left the bargaining table.

“We had no choice but to give notice of a work stoppage,” USW International President Leo W. Gerard said in a statement.

USW Spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said the union wants a three-year contract and is focused on health care costs, safety, the use of contractors and staffing concerns, as well as wages.

Shell officials did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment.

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.

Any agreement reached between the union and Shell would then be used as a pattern for negotiations involving local unions.

The union called for a strike at the Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City Texas, the Shell Deer Park Refinery in Deer Park, Texas, and the Tesoro Carson Refinery in Carson, California, among other locations.

The remaining sites not targeted for a strike will operate under contract extensions that renew every 24 hours until one side in the negotiations decides that they have reached an impasse, Hancock said.

She added that negotiators normally reach an agreement on a new deal by the time these national contracts expire, or they extend the contract a few days to continue negotiations.

“We haven’t had a work stoppage like this since 1980,” she said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.