I’ve been working on the Change Chevron campaign full-time for almost two years now, and I have to say: Today’s Chevron shareholder meeting perfectly encapsulates everything that is deeply wrong with the way the company does business.
I’ll elaborate in a second, but first let me say something very clearly:
Chevron is racist.
Man, feels good to get that off my chest. I’ve been wanting to say that for a long time.
Now, I’m not talking about every single member of the staff, the average Chevron desk jockey or the workers out busting their humps in the oil fields and on the offshore rigs. In fact, I’m not talking about the vast majority of those employed by Chevron. I’m talking about the rich, almost all-male, almost all-white board of directors and executive management team. The people calling the shots at Chevron — they’re the racists.
Here’s why I say that: There is no doubt that if Chevron was responsible for 18 BILLION gallons of toxic oil waste polluting streams and rivers that white Americans rely on for drinking water, the company would never dare deny the existence of the people impacted by its pollution, or call them crooks, con artists, and frauds. I’m sure the higher ups at the company would still pull every legal trick in the book to delay compensating the victims of their corporate irresponsibility and to protect the company’s bottom line at all costs. But they would never, ever dare insult white people the way they have the people of the Ecuadorean Amazon.
If you’re wondering: Yes, Chevron and its lawyers have actually denied the existence of the Ecuadorean plaintiffs who suffer to this day from the company’s oil pollution in the Amazon, deliberately dumped in the waterways of the rainforest throughout the 70s and 80s. And yes, they have also called the Indigenous leaders who have led an 18-year struggle for justice con artists and criminals. They have actually even pressed racketeering charges against them and their lawyers. The only reason the folks calling the shots at Chevron have done all of this is because they figure they can get away with it given that the people suffering from their malfeasance have brown skin and live in the rainforest in a developing country half a world away.
That’s what I mean when I say they’re racist.
Here’s why I say everyone should be angry about the shareholder meeting:
As nearly 200 of us huddled on a narrow sidewalk outside Chevron HQ in San Ramon, CA today to protest the company’s profits-over-people-and-planet modus operandi, a group of Chevron-impacted community leaders from around the world went inside to take their calls for justice directly to the company. These were some inspiring and dedicated people: Emem Okon of the Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre in Nigeria; Robinson Yumbo and Luz Trinidad Andrea Cusangua from Ecuador; Rev. Kenneth Davis from Richmond, CA; and João Antonio de Moraes, national coordinator of Brazil’s largest oil workers union, the United Federation of Oil Workers (FUP), who was denied entry despite having a valid and legal proxy. João traveled thousands of miles to be there, and Chevron wouldn’t even let him in. That’s one reason to be angry with Chevron, but by no means the only one.
Here’s another: Chevron CEO John Watson’s response to the claims against his company brought by this global delegation. What was his response to the outcry against his company for human rights abuses, worker safety violations and environmental contamination? Nothing. Silence. In fact, not once did he mention any of the claims against his company — the $22 billion suit over its offshore spill in Brazil, the $18 billion verdict against the company for its massive oil contamination in Ecuador, the various claims against the company for its offshore rig explosion and water and air pollution in Nigeria. That is, Watson said nothing until Antonia Juhasz of the True Cost of Chevron Network stood up and reminded him that it’s actually against the law for the company not to let its shareholders know about the many liabilities it’s facing around the world.
And I haven’t even gotten to the fact that Chevron made $27 billion last year while committing all of these horrible crimes around the globe, money it uses to buy off our government so it can keep grabbing taxpayer-funded subsidies left and right while refusing to pay the true cost of its business. But that’s another post.