Oil Industry Unions

Regional Oil Industry Unionization

It is commonly assumed that unions have never existed in Texas, let alone in the oil industry. This is not the case. Unionization has a long history in Texas, especially in oil refining and processing industries.

By the end of World War II almost 100 percent of refineries were unionized. The largest of these unions was the Oil Chemicla and Atomic Workers Union (OCAWU). Although unions were generally unpopular in West Texas, the OCAWU launched almost 100 campaigns in the region between 1920 and 1990.

There is some correlation between oil industry salaries and lack of union membership. In the map below, I use data from the Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association to show average 1965 industry salaries by county. Salaries are comparatively very high in the Permian Basin.

map avg employee pay

In the map below, I begin to map patterns of union organizing. In its final form, this map will use historic maps, city directory data and union records that detail both the location of union plants and the home addresses of union members to show connections between income, race, and union membership among West Texas oil workers. It includes the location of all oil pipeline and processing companies in West Texas and tracks the job titles and addresses of oil workers who signed union cards from 1930-1990.