By Steve EarlyThe Chevron fire became a wake-up call for citizen action to make California refineries safer for their own workers and less harmful to air quality, community health, and the environment in general. Since August 2012, labor and community organizers have used lobbying, litigation, regulatory intervention, electoral politics, and strike activity to pursue these goals. There has been some safety enforcement progress, modest financial concessions by Big Oil, and related promises to behave better in the future. Yet, thanks to Big Oil’s legal and political clout in our nation’s second largest oil refining state, the wheels of environmental justice turn much too slowly.
By Nicholas DiSabatino“Is there anybody out here tonight still feeling the Bern?” Labor journalist Steve Early called out this question to a group of over eighty-five people at his Porter Square Books event in Cambridge, MA, on the evening of January 25, coyly referring to the foreword from Senator Bernie Sanders for his new book, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City.
Yesterday, we released labor activist Steve Early’s Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City. In Refinery Town, Early tells the story of Richmond, California, once a prototypical company town, dominated by the Chevron Corporation, with one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the country. Its jobless rate was twice the national average. Beset by deindustrialization, poverty, pollution, poorly funded public services, drug trafficking, corruption in City Hall and more, Richmond’s largely nonwhite, working-class citizens came together to rise against the status quo and corporate power.