You are here

Big Oil

Bay Area IWW Endorses August 3rd "Summer Heat" Action in Richmond, California!

At its July business meeting, the Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW endorsed the following event:

This May marked an ominous milestone on our rush past the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  As CO2 exceeds 400 parts per million, the moment has come to do “hard, important, powerful things” to stop the large-scale burning of fossil fuels. These are the words of the organizers of 350.org’s national Summer Heat campaign—Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Sandra Steingraber, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, who are asking that we turn up the heat, show up and speak out “to the industry that’s wrecking our future.”

As part of Summer Heat events all across the country (see JoinSummerHeat.org), 350.org and its allies invite you to come together in a momentous West Coast mass action to declare our collective resistance to fossil fuels. We hope this will be one of the largest climate justice protests ever. Please join 350 Bay Area, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, No Keystone Action Council, Idle No More, San Francisco Solidarity, Urban Tilth, and Gathering Tribes on August 3rd and 6th to stand with the people of Richmond, California who are in the frontlines in our common fight for the health and safety of our communities, and against accelerating climate change.

On August 3rd, three days before the one-year anniversary of the Chevron refinery explosion and fire, we will gather at 10am at the Richmond BART to march to a spirited rally with national and regional leaders in the fight against climate catastrophe.  (Full schedule is at JoinSummerHeat.org/bay; bus available for non-walkers.) The rally will be followed by a march to the gates of the Chevron refinery with the following demands:

  • NO KEYSTONE XL TAR SANDS PIPELINE.
  • NO MORE LIFE-THREATENING HAZARDS. Chevron and other Bay Area refineries shall prevent future spills, fires and explosions by retrofitting with the best and safest technology available.
  • NO REFINING OF DIRTY CRUDE.  Refining high-sulfur, low-quality tar sands and fracked oil increases greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants. It also seriously corrodes refinery machinery, which contributes to major industrial accidents.
  • NO MORE CORPORATE TAX EVASION.  Chevron shall pay its fair share of taxes to City, County, State and Federal agencies, and stop all frivolous litigation relating to these matters.
  • NO MORE POLLUTING OUR DEMOCRACY.  Chevron invests more in lobbying and manipulating elections with outrageous campaign contributions than it does in plant safety. Big Oil’s injection of mega-bucks into the political process ensures its continuing domination of energy policy.
  • A JUST TRANSITION FROM DIRTY FOSSIL FUELS TO UNION JOBS IN CLEAN ENERGY.              Government and Big Oil shall invest in high-quality union jobs in clean energy for local residents. Chevron needs to support Richmond’s long-term transition to a renewable energy-based economy that’s good for people and the planet.

Capital Blight: Old Wine in New Bottles; Why Obama's "Bold" Announcement on Climate Change Gives the Fossil Fuel Industry Just About Everything it Wants.

By x344543, June 25, 2013.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Count me as being among those  who find little to cheer about in Barack Obama's so-called "bold" speech on Climate Change.

Yes, it's true that he called for an end to big oil tax subsidies, but he offered no specific plan on how he would make that happen (and very likely the US Congress and Senate, who are the bodies that actually craft the budgets the President must sign into law, most of whose members are deeply indebted to the fossil fuel industry for campaign contributions are not going to bite the hands that feed them).

Yes, he called for an end to public financing for new coal plants overseas, but he said nothing about putting an end to public financing of new domestic coal plants, nor did he say anything about regulating coal exports.  

According to the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC):

"He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to put an 'end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution' from new and existing power plants. IF EPA comes up with a good regulation for existing power plants, this will be exceptionally good news and long overdue. If this regulation takes a political eternity to adopt and doesn’t require significant reductions or allows broad exemptions, then this regulation won’t be worth the paper it is written on."

I agree and want to add to that that both the EPA, OSHA, and other regulatory agencies whose mandates are to regulate the environmental, labor, and business practices of such activities are either routinely understaffed or under the directorship of capitalist representatives of the very businesses that are supposed to be regulated. It's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you cannot leave the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Reinventing the Wheel - Kicking the Oil Habit

By x356039 - June 17, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Oil. It is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room at every discussion of climate, energy, and the economy. Our society is unquestionably addicted to it, with the United States consuming a whopping 19.1 million barrels of oil every day. When the total energy used is converted from barrels of oil to watt hours the figure is staggering. Running in at 31 terawatt hours per day, this massively dwarfs all energy consumed in the electric grid which runs in at a much smaller 4 terawatt hours daily. Much of this goes to running our transportation networks, providing fuel for trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes across the country before we even start looking at military consumption. With how incredibly ubiquitous oil is for our economy it is no surprise mainstream environmentalists talk of slowly phasing it out as opposed to going cold turkey on the black stuff, implying one more hit won't put us over the edge.

This is all based on the assumption that we do not have the means to go off of oil. Even renewable energy production is caught in its sticky web. Yet there is hope. The current potential for renewable energy is so great that if we implemented it on a sufficiently large scale even the massive demand for energy the oil economy supports could be met. As was established in a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study released in 2008 if 7% of all commercial and residential rooftops in the United States were fitted with photovoltaic solar panels our electric power demand of 4.05 terawatt hours per day would be completely satisfied. Now granted oil does provide for 33.8 terawatt hours of energy per day so how could solar meet that demand? If we increased the number of solar panels to cover 65% of all residential and commercial rooftops in the United States the massive thirst for oil would be quenched by clean, free sunlight.

The Fate Of The New Carissa

By Arthur J Miller

Environmentalism and the Maritime Industry

Chapter 18 of Yardbird Blues - by Arthur Miller

Chevron: Actively preventing a transition to renewable energy.

By x363464 - May 16, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In 1950, Chevron, General Motors, and Firestone were charged and convicted of criminal conspiracy for their part in the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. In this scandal they purchased streetcar systems all over the United States in order to disassemble the industry and create bus lines. They did this to increase the demand for petroleum, automobiles and tires so that they could directly receive business and profits from their scheme.  Later Chevron began investing in alternative industries such as lithium car batteries. Chevron began to be limiting access to large NiMH batteries through its control of patent licenses. Many suspect they did this to remove a competitor to gasoline and suspicions were affirmed when Chevron began a lawsuit against Panasonic and Toyota because they started producing EV-95 batteries for electric cars.

Good Energy, Bad Energy

Friends of the Earth International, 2013 - copied according to Creative Commons License

The world’s current energy system – the way we produce, distribute and consume energy – is unsustainable, unjust and harms communities, workers, the environment and the climate. Friends of the Earth International's new report demonstrates why a just, sustainable, climate-safe energy system is more urgent than ever.

Key points

  • Our current energy system is unsustainable, unjust, and harming communities, workers, the environment and the climate.  This is fundamentally an issue of power: of corporate and elite power and interests outweighing the power of ordinary citizens and communities.
  • The destructive energy sources on which the world current relies are driving climate change and many social and environmental problems and conflicts, including land grabbing, pollution, deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems, human rights abuses, health problems and premature deaths, and unsafe, insecure jobs and the rupture and collapse of local economies.

Friends of the Earth International believes that it is possible to build a climate-safe, just and sustainable energy system which ensures the basic right to energy for everyone and respects the rights and different ways of life of communities around the world.  To get there we need to challenge corporate power and exert real democratic control over the energy decisions of our governments.

  • We urgently need to invest in locally-appropriate, climate-safe, affordable and low impact energy for all, and reduce energy dependence so that people don’t need much energy to meet their basic needs and live a good life.
  • We need to end new destructive energy projects and phase out existing destructive energy sources, all the while ensuring that the rights of affected communities and workers are respected and that their needs are provided for during the transition.
  • To make the transition happen we also need to tackle the trade and investment rules that prioritise corporations' needs over those of people and the environment.
  • Our vision is guided by an idea called energy sovereignty.  This is the right of people to have access to energy, and to choose sustainable energy sources and sustainable consumption patterns that will lead them towards sustainable societies.

PDF File

Tar Sands: Rejecting False Conflict Between Trade Unions and Environment

By Joe Uehlein - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 23, 2011

Sometimes a decision forces you to think deeply about what you believe in and how you act on those beliefs. It was like that when the climate protection leader Bill McKibben asked me to sign a letter calling for civil disobedience to block the building of a pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Opposing the pipeline might strain ties with unions that I’ve worked with and been part of for my whole adult life. And yet the pipeline might be a tipping point that could hurtle us into ever more desperate acceleration of climate change.  Amid these conflicting pulls, what should I do? Having lived at the confluence of trade unionism and environmentalism, what’s the right course of action – what has my life’s work meant?

I was born into a union family. My dad worked in the steel mills in Lorain, Ohio and was a founder of the Steelworkers Union. My mom had been an organizer in the Clothing Workers Union in Cincinnati. I grew up near Cleveland and I walked the picket line with my dad during the 1959 steel strike.

My own trade union life began the day I walked through the factory doors at Capital Products Aluminum Corporation in Mechanicsburg, PA. I was 17 years old, and I joined the United Steelworkers of America. That summer I engaged in my first strike. The following year Hurricane Agnes pounded the mid-Atlantic states; Central Pennsylvania was devastated, and the mill was flooded out. So I joined the Laborer’s Union and went to work on construction.

That’s where I first learned something about working on pipelines. I worked building the Texas-Eastern pipeline as it wound its way through the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania. Small teams of operating engineers, pipefitters, and laborers traveled across the state doing work we enjoyed and that we understood to be useful and important. (We didn’t know then what we know now.) It was a great job and I was a member of a great union, Laborer’s Local 158. We formed friendships and shared a solidarity that touched us all deeply.

On another job building a railroad bridge across the Susquehanna river, a buddy of mine got fired by a hubris-filled college kid. (The kid’s dad owned the construction company so the kid had been made chief foreman over all laborers.) We struck and shut the job down. The operating engineers, carpenters and ironworkers supported us. Without that support we would have lost, but we won and my brother laborer was hired back.

These jobs helped me pay my way through college. They also taught me a lot about solidarity and trade unionism, and helped launch me on a life-long pursuit of workers rights and jobs with justice, first as a local leader and eventually as an official with the AFL-CIO.

I grew up along the banks of Lake Erie and I learned at a tender age about the possibility of human threats to the environment. I was there when they posted the signs telling us to stop swimming in the lake and stop eating the fish. I’d already eaten hundreds of Lake Erie Yellow Perch and swallowed more of that lake water than I care to think about.

I also learned early about the potential conflict between protecting labor and protecting the environment. In the 1970s I worked on the concrete crew during the construction of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, and my local union put out a bumper sticker that read “Hungry and Out of Work? Eat an Environmentalist.”

Since then I’ve devoted much of my life trying to bridge the gap between labor and environmental movements. I’ve argued that both share a common interest in combining economic and social sustainability with environmental sustainability. I’ve argued that “jobs vs. the environment” is a false choice.

What happened to Teamsters & Turtles? Arctic Drilling, the Labor Movement, and the Environment

By Alexis Buss - Industrial Worker, October 2001

"They couldn't have done it without the unions," is the sentiment echoed across the environmental movement, as U.S. President George Bush's energy plan passed 240-189 in the House. Although few expect the plan to drill for domestic oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to pass the Senate (although with the potential for war around the comer, political dynamics are bound to change), many are left scratching their heads, wondering what the future will be for a fledgling environmentalist-labor coalition dubbed "Teamsters and Turtles" during 1999's anti-WIO protests in Seattle.

Media pundits had long labeled the ANWR drilling plan as politically unviable because of the Democrats' control of the Senate. A last-minute intervention by the Teamsters played a major part in pushing the plan through the House, and Teamster President James Hoffa plans to help target the Senate when the bill hits the floor in late September.

The Teamsters came aboard as a lobby group for the plan after a closed-door meeting in May with Vice President Dick Cheney and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. Leaders from over twenty labor organizations were present, mostly from construction and maritime. The AFL-CIO also endorsed the Bush plan late in the game, which came as an unexpected move as several power-hitters in the federation including the Service Employees International Union and the Communication Workers of America had stated their opposition to the scheme. (The AFL-ClO's 1993 convention passed a resolution that, in part, called on the country to explore ANWR for oil with safeguards to protect the environment.)

Bush's energy plan - supposedly instigated by the California energy crisis [1] and unstable gasoline prices - calls for building almost 2,000 new power plants and 18,000 miles of fuel pipelines over the next two decades. The Bush teams figures indicated that each new power plant would create 1,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs, while every 1,000 miles of pipeline would bring with it another 5,000 jobs. And there would be another job boom if nuclear power plants came back into the picture. All told, over 700,000 jobs would be created, according to a 1990 report of the Wharton Econometric Institute, paid for by the American Petroleum Institute. (Not to mention the plethora of jobs to be had cleaning up from environmental disasters, guarding radioactive wastes for tens of thousands of years, and such.)

Unions at the Cheney meeting have joined a business-led coalition called "Job Power: Americans for Energy Employment." It's worth noting that Cheney earned more than $20 million last year as CEO of Halliburton, an oil-field services company that would benefit greatly from loosening regulations on refineries and pipelines.

Our Lives Are at Stake: Workers Fight for Health and Safety (the Shell Strike of 1973)

By Berry Weisberg - OCAW 1-591, July 1973
Background Information by Douglas W. Erlandson - USW Local 12-591

On January 21st, OCAWIU President Bob Grospiron called over 4000 Shell OCAW members from 5 oil refineries and 3 chemical plants, out on strike. Then made a nationwide appeal to the public to boycott Shell Oil while the union continued its fight over the right to bargain health and safety issues.

The union was seeking:

  • 1) The establishment of a Joint Union-Management Health & Safety Committee
  • 2) Wanted the Union committee workers paid while performing official committee duties
  • 3) The right to call in independant Health & Safety inspectors
  • 4) Access to all Company information on both death and disease rates
  • 5) Annual Company medical examinations provided at Company expense

As a tactic for the 1973 strike, OCAW employed the first major "corporate campaign" in U.S. history. OCAW forged alliances with the scientific, academic, environmental and labor communities to fight Shell’s position that it would not bargain over health and safety. The union spent nearly half a million dollars to advertise a nationwide boycott of Shell and to educate the public about the need to protect the health of workers and the communities.

Even though 12 other major oil companies had already signed contracts that provided for the new joint union- management health and safety committees, they assisted Shell by buying their gasoline and blacklisting Shell's strikers. The oil industry's thinking was the new joint H&S committees would get in the way of production and profits.

Shell's corporate spokesman, J.H. Walter called the unions joint H&S committee 'another attempt at featherbedding since the workers could then decide how long they could safely work in the refineries and chemical plants.

Moreover, Shell stated that health & safety was none of the oil workers' business: "We are legally responsible for the health and safety of Shell employees in the workplace and this responsibility cannot be shared". The truth was the oil companies didn't want to give up control in this area.

From 1963-1969, Shell used caged canaries as 'safety devices' at their Houston chemical plant.(true story, no joke!) The canary's job was to detect the presence of carbon monoxide. If the canary died, it was time for the workers to leave. Shell went through a lot of canaries, OCAW was claiming by the time the canary died, the workers would already have been exposed.

The union was also seeking the right to inspect company records and financial reports of the pension funds Shell administered and to be able to grieve the company's arbitrary actions with regard to disability pensions. (The union suspected Shell's pension fund was under funded.) One Anacortes member who worked for Shell for 17 years, was certified by two doctors as being disabled, yet Shell wouldn't allow him disabled benefits even though he met the 15 year employment requirement. For the union, this was an item that needed to be addressed.

The International Representative assigned locally was Virgil Coragliotti, with Representative Tom Burkholder assisting on occasion. Don Yates was the Shell unit chairman and the committee members were Gil Nuessen, Wes Shull, F. D. Ferguson, Bob Melton Sr. Jerry Vrooman was the Local President and Jim Burgess was the financial secretary.

Picket pay was $25 a week. The 1-591 union brothers at General Chemical and Texaco assessed their monthly dues to help support the Shell members. Financial support was also received regularly from the Ferndale OCAW 1-590 local. Because Shell Oil’s daily production was unaffected and they didn’t lose any profits during the strike, the strikers received unemployment benefits under what was then known as the ‘dark plant rule’. Not surprising, Shell Oil later lobbied to get that section of the unemployment law changed.

About a week before the strike Snelsons’ had contracted with Shell to do maintenance work on a recently shutdown furnace. Their plan was to use the Boilermakers union, Local 104 out of Seattle. OCAW had gotten wind of it and a group of about 60 Shell brothers were on site waiting for the 14 building trades members when they attempted to cross the picket line, being led through by Bill Snelson. Several Shell picketers became so upset that they turned over both of Snelsons’ trucks and trailers. At the same time, someone smashed out Snelson's rear window. Out of fear, Snelson romped on the gas throwing John Garner, who was standing in front of him, onto the hood of his car. Garner was able to roll off as Snelson bolted on through. The Sheriff was immediately called.

Fred Nelson, Bob Melton and Charlie Pyburn were identified as the lead individuals involved and were fired. Later, after two days in court, Judge Deierlein had Melton and Pyburn jailed, then sharply criticized Shell management for not maintaining better communications with the union and local law enforcement officials in trying to prevent emotional blow-ups. Later Snelson took OCAW 1-591 to court and won $6700 for the damage done to his vehicles. Shell also fired Virgil Avey for breaking windsphrlds with his picket sign. While the other three were unable to get their jobs back, Fred Nelson was eventually rehired. Old time Union members refer to this incidence as the "Day of the Windstorm."

OCAW also had trouble with the Teamster's Union from Seattle. The same teamster leadership that was scabbing on the United Farm Workers, had ordered their drivers to disregard the picket line established by OCAW. And since there was an injunction limiting the number of pickets to two per gate, the union was unable to do much about the Teamsters pushing through with their trucks.

To keep in the health and safety issue in front of the public, OCAW had teams that traveled the northwest speaking to the news media and public about the need for work place safety. Shell later admitted the mobile speakers bureaus were very effective.

Finally, Shell, in the face of public pressure, bargained a compromised health and safety clause as well as meeting the union's demand allowing the pension fund to be reviewed and grieved if necessary. On June 1st the strike was officially ended.

Download (PDF).

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.