Recently, the oil and gasoline industry promoted a gimmick offering a discount on gasoline at certain stations around the state, in an effort to build support for their “pump-your-own” gas legislation. Don’t fall for the industry’s bait-and-switch. Let’s look at the facts.
The “Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act” (A-3105) would require gas stations with more than four dispensers to provide the option of full-service gas from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm. Gas stations with four or fewer dispensers would not need to provide full-service at all. Chances are, the gas station where you fill up before or after work has at least two filling stations, equal to four dispensers. Let us be clear, this bill would take away full-service gas for many New Jersey drivers under these circumstances.
As a coalition of organized labor, immigrant rights, and disability community advocates, we are coming together to oppose these proposed changes to New Jersey’s unique fueling rules because it will eliminate gas station attendant jobs that working families of diverse backgrounds depend on. While few to none of these workers are unionized, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO seeks to protect all jobs throughout New Jersey. Additionally, eliminating these jobs would be painful for vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities, the elderly and people with children, who rely on attendants to help them gas up. This bill would hurt consumers and provide little in return.
The push for self-serve gas follows a trend for industries shifting the burden of labor onto consumers, so that businesses can cut payrolls and boost their profits. In this case, the oil and gasoline industry claims that by cutting attendant jobs, they will be able to lower gas prices. We understand the impact of high gas prices on affordability, but eliminating attendants will have no long-term impact on what people pay at the pump. That’s because under the bill, although gas stations are allowed to give discounts for pumping your own gas, the legislation does not require discounts or say how much the discount will be.
Don’t be hoodwinked into supporting self-serve gas. There are no penalties under the bill for gas stations that fail to provide full-service gas during the required times. We recognize that there are currently labor shortages throughout our economy. But if this bill moves forward, drivers will find themselves waiting in lines for self-serve gas, as gas stations find another excuse for why they cannot provide full-service. If convenience is the goal, stations should hire adequate attendants and pay competitive wages.
The intent of this bill is not to benefit consumers, but to increase the profits of oil and gasoline companies in the name of corporate greed. While prices for gasoline approach record highs, oil and gas companies are enjoying windfall profits, gasoline attendants typically earn the minimum wage, just $13 per hour. Oil and gas companies should use their excessive profits to lower gas prices and pay workers what they are worth in a competitive labor market.
Instead of providing full-service for all, the bill calls for help buttons to be installed on filling stations that can be pressed to request help for disabled patrons only. Outside of the 8:00 am- 8:00 pm window, stations are not required to provide help to customers with safety concerns or a preference for full-service gas. Perhaps that is why women are opposing these changes in large numbers, according to a recent poll.
The current economic conditions that are causing high gas prices will change over time. Prices will eventually come down. The labor shortages we are experiencing are the exception to the norm. We shouldn’t be so quick to eliminate gas attendant jobs when the next recession could be right around the corner, especially when we consider the impact to consumers. Don’t fall for the oil and gas industry’s empty promises and oppose this bill.
By: Charles Wowkanech, President, New Jersey State AFL-CIO; Sara Cullinane, Executive Director, Make the Road New Jersey; Christian Estevez, President Emeritus, Latino Action Network; Javier Robles, New Jersey Disability Action Committee
A version of this article appeared in the Press of Atlantic City on May 27, 2022.