One morning in September, word of layoffs began to spread quickly through Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in small industrial community of Garyville, Louisiana.
Seven months into the pandemic, workers at the oil refining plant thought they would be spared the fate of their colleagues at other facilities, who had already been jettisoned into a daunting job market.
“Through the morning, we were seeing people get the phone call and not come back,” said one maintenance engineer, who lost his job after nearly a decade at the facility. “Everybody was on pins and needles waiting for the call.”
Last year, Marathon laid off 1,920 workers across the US despite taking $2.1bn in federal tax benefits meant to cushion the pandemic’s blow to the economy, according to a report from BailoutWatch. The worker interviewed for this story, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of difficulty finding a job, is still unemployed. He and his wife had plans to start a family, which are now on hold. And he is competing with more than 18,000 oil, gas and manufacturing workers in Louisiana who lost jobs last year.