Crown Posts Higher Earnings, Draws Criticism From Union

Locked-out Workers From Texas Attend Annual Meeting

April 25, 1997|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Crown Central Petroleum Corp. yesterday reported its second consecutive strong quarter at an annual meeting where locked-out Texas refinery workers attacked the conduct of the Baltimore-based company.

Net income for Crown's first quarter, which ended March 31, was $724,000 -- compared with a $13 million loss in the year-ago period. On a per-share basis, Crown reported net income of 7 cents, compared with a loss of $1.34. Sales were up 6 percent, to $395 million from $371 million.

The company attributed the improvement to retail sales at its 341 stations. A maintenance shutdown at Crown's Tyler, Texas, refinery hurt results.

Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., Crown's chairman and CEO, called the results gratifying. "For the two most recent completed quarters, earnings exceeded the prior year comparable quarterly results by over $40 million," he said.

Crown also announced that it will close its terminal at Curtis Bay in Baltimore -- a decision that will eliminate four jobs, said Joseph Coale, a Crown spokesman. "It has not been as fully utilized as it should be to justify keeping it open," he said.

Crown is also closing a terminal in Doraville, Ga. The company will use nearby Shell Oil Co. terminals in Baltimore and Doraville. "We're still going to be using Crown tankers to deliver our product to retailers," Coale said. "It should save several hundred thousand dollars a year."

Unlike last year's meeting, when the company barred workers from the Pasadena, Texas, refinery from attendance, Crown admitted several workers.

The lockout at the Pasadena refinery started Feb. 5, 1996, when talks broke down over a company proposal to save Crown $2.5 million a year in labor costs. It affected 250 members of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union. The company's proposal called for laying off about 29 OCAW members in the plant and cutting the role seniority plays in promotions and layoffs.

Before Crown's annual meeting yesterday, a dozen employees and union officials held a rival "shareholder accountability" meeting. In addition to criticizing Crown's conduct in the lockout, the union also released letters from advocacy groups calling the company a "bad neighbor polluter" and urging Crown to take stronger steps to bar the sale of cigarettes to children.

At the beginning of the annual meeting, Rosenberg cautioned against "repetitive, irrelevant and otherwise inappropriate" remarks. He said each speaker would have two minutes.

Alvin Freeman, a welder at the Pasadena refinery who heads the union's Crown bargaining unit, was barred from last year's meeting because he owned shares through a company-sponsored retirement plan, rather than independently.

He returned this year as an independent shareholder, urging Rosenberg to meet with the international president of the union to end the lockout. "Let's get together, sit down and get this thing resolved," he said.

Rosenberg responded to pleas for personal involvement by saying the company's negotiating committee should settle the dispute. He told Freeman the company's offer is on the table.

Karen Sloan, a locked-out employee who worked 19 years for Crown, accused the company of treating workers unfairly. Noting that Rosenberg makes a lot of money in Baltimore, she asked why he couldn't give Texas workers a "living wage."

As she walked back to her seat, Rosenberg told her he understood her comments. "And you were over your two-minute limit," he said.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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