Open letter from Councilmember Jeff Ritterman concerning the
Chevron Refinery Expansion
"them belly full but we hungry
a hungry mob is an angry mob"
Bob Marley from "Dem belly full"
"A Hungry Man is an Angry Man" - final comment made by a
disgruntled building trades
worker during Richmond City Council
Open Forum 7/21/09
The building trades workers have lost their jobs and they are
angry. Homes, families, and the health and well-being of hard
working men and women hang in the balance as the negotiations
continue over the Chevron Expansion.
Last night, at Richmond's city council meeting, the anger seemed
mostly directed at the council itself - or perhaps at those on
the council, like myself, who don't believe that pressuring the
plaintiffs is the appropriate course of action.
I believe that the best course of action is an alliance between
the building trades workers and the plaintiffs, working toward a
refinery upgrade which is aimed at protecting our community just
as much as it is aimed at making Chevron a profit.
Why is it not expected that the very first place to invest
refinery profits should be in making the surrounding community
as safe as possible? Throughout the discussion on Chevron's
expansion project, I heard over and over again how the expansion
was important in order to replace a 100 year old
infrastructure. That should have happened already. Now, it
should happen immediately and the workers should be put back to
work doing that. Immediately.
There is no better use for refinery profits than to make sure
that Richmond residents, who already suffer the highest asthma
rates in the county, are as protected as modern technology
allows. Right now the refinery profit is going mostly to
wealthy individuals, who either save the money or spend it on
luxury items. While unemployment rises astronomically, there is
a waiting list for yachts.
That is our reality. We are in the midst of a crisis. We are
the most unequal of all of the wealthy nations on earth. This
has happened since Reagan's presidency and has accelerated
greatly during both Bush presidencies. Wealth and income has
been shifted from the middle and lower classes to the very
wealthy. We are becoming more and more unequal (see attached).
We are simply no longer a middle class society. Our
labor unions lack strength.
That's why the national union cut a deal with Chevron. This was
done out of weakness, not out of strength. Ultimately that
deal undermined the otherwise potential alliance between labor
and the community. Developing the alliance of labor, the
community and environmental groups is the only way out of the
quagmire in which we find ourselves. We cannot move forward
without that alliance.
redistribution of income from
the bottom and the middle to the very top has been resulted in
an enormous growth in corporate wealth and power. Chevron is
California's biggest corporation. It pays lower rates of income
tax now than it did during Reagan's presidency. It has amassed
huge profits and has distributed them mostly to the already
rich. You can't blame
That's what a corporation is
supposed to do by law, make money.