Whiting Petroleum, which is based in Denver, Colorado, issued a public statement at the end of July saying that they had just laid off 254 workers, 1/3 of their workforce.
In Dickinson, North Dakota where I have lived for the past six years, the main oil companies operating in this area are Continental Resources, Marathon Oil, Whiting Petroleum, and Hess Corporation. One of the newspaper articles that I read, said that Whiting Petroleum owned 1,500 oil wells in North Dakota.
To me, the Whiting Petroleum layoffs are funny. Yes, that’s right, funny. I have been thinking about the significance and repercussions of these lay offs for most of the day. What this means, is that you can’t believe, trust, or rely on anything in North Dakota, because everything is based on oil and oil companies.
In this area, working for Whiting Petroleum, was one of the most steady jobs that you could get. Most of the Whiting Petroleum personnel in Dickinson, to my knowledge, were what is called “pumpers”. Pumpers are issued a new or almost new full-size, four-wheel-drive, company pickup truck, and they are assigned ten to twenty oil wells which they have to briefly inspect each day.
You don’t get to become a pumper until you are at least thirty years old, most pumpers are over forty years old. Pumpers are required to have had more than several years of previous oil field work experience, a good work record, a clean driving record, mechanic skills, technical skills, heavy equipment operating experience, and sometimes a commercial driver’s license.
Oil companies look for the most experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, reliable, and trustworthy oil field workers to hire as pumpers. Pumpers get paid about $65,000 per year, for a ten hour per day, five day work week.
In the oil industry, it is understood that the pumper positions are very long-term, steady employment. The most experienced, knowledgeable, skilled, and reliable oil field workers, are willing to accept a $65,000 per year pumper job, because the work day is usually only ten hours, and they can be home in time for dinner with their family every evening, and spend weekends with their families.
Most pumpers in Dickinson, due to the oil industry practice of pumper positions being very long-term employment, they brought their families to Dickinson, purchased a home in Dickinson, and purchased a nice new truck from a local dealership.
Once you become a pumper for an oil company, and you are assigned your ten to twenty oil wells which you have to drive to every day, you expect that these ten to twenty oil wells will be operating for the next thirty years, and you will be inspecting these wells until you retire.
These people who got laid off from Whiting Petroleum in Dickinson, most of them probably hadn’t missed a day of work in years, even when they were sick, even when there was a snow storm. They were very reliable, responsible, and competent in their jobs. They didn’t do anything wrong, but now they don’t have a job.
If you can’t count on your job at Continental Resources, Marathon Petroleum, Whiting Petroleum, or Hess in North Dakota, what can you count on? The answer is, nothing. You can’t count on anything in North Dakota, that’s the whole point.
If Whiting Petroleum is going to lay people off like this, the other oil companies will too. As it turns out, the oil company workers who thought that they could have a stable life, buy a home, and raise a family in places like Williston and Dickinson, they were duped, tricked, deceived, and misled. They are being treated no better than migrant, seasonal, laborers by the oil companies.
In western North Dakota, the chambers of commerce, government spokespeople, elected representatives, industry spokespeople, business owners, realtors, want to attract people here with the lure of high paying jobs and supposed good quality of life, but it’s all a lie, you will be mistreated, taken advantage of, and used.