National Baptist Convention endorses boycott of Crown Central Petroleum Dispute with union in Texas at issue

October 29, 1998|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The nation's largest African-American religious denomination pTC has endorsed a boycott of Baltimore-based Crown Central Petroleum Corp., which is engaged in a 32-month labor dispute with workers at its Pasadena, Texas, refinery.

The 8.2-million member National Baptist Convention USA adopted the resolution at its September 1997 general session in Denver, but withheld it until this week, in case there was progress between Crown and the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers union to resolve the dispute, which resulted in the lockout of 250 workers.

Crown spokesman Joseph M. Coale called the Baptists' endorsement "a continuation of the union's effort to touch every hot button, whether it be racism or religion or whatever, in order to get Crown to accede to their demands."

The Rev. Bennie Mitchell, director of the National Baptist Convention's Office of Labor Relations, said: "Nobody wants a boycott, but when you refuse to meet with people and discuss things in a rational and equitable way, you have to use some means to get people's attention."

The resolution is "asking all Baptist churches and their members not to buy products from Crown," Mitchell said.

In Maryland, about 200 churches are affiliated with the National Baptist Convention.

Crown's Coale called the church's action "economic McCarthyism."

"We've had no opportunity to present our case," he said. "These charges have no basis in merit."

In February, a coalition of local religious leaders, led by the Rev. Douglas I. Miles, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, delivered to Crown a letter with about 300 signatures urging it to end the lockout and reach a fair agreement with workers.

The lockout started in February 1997, after talks between Crown and the union broke down over a company proposal to save $2.5 million a year by laying off about 29 union members at the plant and cutting the role seniority plays in promotions and layoffs.

The Baptists' resolution says Crown has rebuffed the union's good faith efforts to resolve the dispute. It also notes a discrimination lawsuit filed against Crown by eight African-American and female employees. And since the workers were replaced in the Texas refinery, air pollution in the surrounding community has increased, adversely affecting its largely minority residents, the resolution said.

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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