Chevron Corporation Upgrades from “C” to “B”
by Marilyn Langlois, April 1, 2013 – TRANSCEND Media Service
Richmond, California Refinery to Be Worker-Owned and Operated
Chevron CEO John Watson announced today that Chevron Corporation, a major oil company under various names since 1879, will be making a radical shift in priorities beginning in 2014. The oil giant plans to switch from being a traditional “C” corporation (aimed at maximizing profits for shareholders) to joining a new and growing cadre of public benefit “B” corporations.
“The work of organizations like 350.org made us realize that unless we do something dramatic to slow down climate change, the earth will no longer provide a livable habitat for our great-grandchildren and their descendants”, noted Watson in a statement released today. “Consumers are so addicted to oil that we, as producers of fossil fuel products, need to prioritize a rapid transition to renewable energy resources, and do it in a way that makes adequate energy accessible and affordable to people of all walks of life,” he added.
In order to achieve B corporation certification, Chevron’s top management are committed to meeting the rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency that are required. All transition planning meetings will be open to the public and viewable on-line via streaming video.
To demonstrate its commitment to social equity and workplace democracy, Chevron further announced that its hundred year old oil refinery in Richmond, California is being converted to a worker-owned cooperative. Current refinery employees are eligible to become worker-owners by putting in $10,000 each (payable in installments over 10 years), under two conditions: first, that the facility remains a worker-owned cooperative in perpetuity and second, that the workers commit to moving the refinery away from fossil fuel processing and towards renewable energy or other clean, sustainable ventures within the next 20 years. Beyond that, all decisions will be made through representative worker councils, on a “one worker one vote” basis.
A group of employees at the Chevron Richmond refinery that are leading the membership drive for worker-owners has issued a statement indicating that their top priorities are worker health and safety, protection of the environment—both local and global, economic equity, and concern for the community. The group is proposing a restructured salary schedule, whereby no worker, including top management hired by the workers, will earn more than 5 times more than the lowest paid workers. Local residents will be encouraged to participate in advising the Richmond refinery co-op on how to best serve the needs of the community.
It is anticipated that workers will continue belonging to unions. The United Steel Workers, representing a large number of refinery operators, welcomes this development. In 2009, USW signed an agreement with the extensive network of Mondragón Cooperatives in Spain. Their aim is to establish manufacturing cooperatives that adapt collective bargaining principles to the Mondragón worker ownership model of “one worker, one vote.” USW International President Leo W. Gerard noted at the time, “We see [our 2009] agreement as a historic first step towards making union co-ops a viable business model that can create good jobs, empower workers, and support communities in the United States and Canada.”
When asked what he thinks about this new arrangement, with his loss of control and potential reduction in compensation, refinery General Manager Nigel Hearne, a native of Wales, said, “No problem. I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with the other refinery workers to make our operations more healthy, sustainable and humane. I respect all of the workers and I hope they hire me to stay on the job!“ Hearne noted that he recently saw the 1940 film “Proud Valley”, starring the legendary Paul Robeson as an itinerant worker who joined up with coal miners in Wales, and “watching the solidarity and dedication of these Welsh coal miners in the face of abject poverty and often lethal working conditions reminded me that we’re all in this together, and we can find a better way.”
Hearne applauded Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin for travelling to Mondragón in 2010 and bringing awareness to Richmond about the universal advantages of worker cooperatives. Mayor McLaughlin is delighted with this new development and noted, “We’ve been saying this for years. I’m glad the corporate elites are finally starting to realize that we’re all part of the human family and that money alone can’t save the world.”
Marilyn Langlois is a TRANSCEND member and Convener for the USA region, and community organizer and mediator in Richmond, California.