Pipeline workers walk picket line in Mississippi

By Joe Atkins, Labor South
Brian Anderson said he and the other pipeline workers on the picket line in Columbia, Miss., have a simple message.
"We're protesting lower scale wages and no benefits. We look after worker benefits. We are not radicals, not going to smash heads or sabotage or anything like that. … What we are trying to do is educate the public that they are getting an inferior job."
A welder from Longville, La., Anderson is a member of Pipeliners Local 798, which is protesting the Kinder Morgan company's decision to award the non-union Loutex company a contract to build a pipeline in and beyond the Marion County area in south Mississippi near the Louisiana border.
Kinder Morgan is based in Houston, Texas, and Loutex is based in Joaquin, Texas.
The picket site is in Columbia, county seat of Marion County, and involves anywhere from 15 to 60 workers a day. Overall 300 workers are involved in the protest, which has been going on for the past couple of weeks, Anderson said.
Attempts by Labor South to get company comments regarding the picket were unsuccessful. However, Kinder Morgan representative Allen Fore told WDAM-TV in Columbia that the company awarded the project to Loutex because it offered the best and most competitive bid.
That bid was based on low-wage, low-benefits labor and other factors that may end up making the project more expensive, Anderson said.
"The costs on a nonunion contractor is higher than a union contract," Anderson said. "We go in there and do the job. At the end of the job, the gas companies will give them (non-union companies) more money to get the job completed, and the cost of non-union goes on up. It takes them longer, and you don't have the same kind of quality."