RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #102 January 31, 2012
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IN THIS ISSUE
King Movie Friday
Honoring King's Legacy
Chevron WILLFUL SERIOUS Violations
Coaltion to Challange Refineries
Council Vacancy Heard Monday
MLK Day on Greenway
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Friday 2/1,   5:30 PM
Movie: Martin Luther King's Last Campaign
MLK Movie

Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King

By Willie Hardy

This month we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, who did so much to further the cause of equality in our country.

Today, it has become popular for politicians and the media to praise him, while some of them ignore what he stood for. I, for one, am getting tired of the hypocrisy.

To honor the man, we need to tell the truth about what he stood for.

Dr. King died in Memphis, where he was supporting striking sanitation workers. He gave his life as he helped them win their strike for dignity and union recognition.

How many politicians today attack public workers and seek to destroy their unions, while pretending they honor the memory of Dr. King?

Only a few days ago, the Mayor of New York gave a speech praising Martin Luther King, Jr. Then the same Mayor set out to bust the strike of 10,000 school bus workers.

We know what side Dr. King would be on in that fight, because he knew that civil rights and workers' rights cannot be separated.

Here is what Dr. King said in a 1961 speech about so-called "Right to Work" laws:


"In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone."

 

Willie Hardy is a leader of Teamsters for a Democratic Union 

 

State agency finds  

Chevron "willfull serious" Violations

 

After 6 months of investigations, a state agency investigating the Chevron fire has found that Chevron was seriously negligent in the August fire and has fined Chevron close to $1,000,000-the maximum allowed. The money is not enough to deter Chevron which spends many times this amount on its PR campaigns and election smears.

 

The following excerpts from the statement by the State Department of Industrial Relations says it all.

 

Oakland -The California Division of Occupational Safety & Health (Cal/OSHA) today issued 25 citations against Chevron USA, with proposed penalties totaling nearly $1 million, for state safety standard violations related to the August 6, 2012 fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery. The citations include eleven "willful serious" and twelve "serious" violations, resulting in the highest penalties in Cal/OSHA's history.

 

Cal/OSHA immediately launched an investigation into the fire and the leak repair procedures throughout the refinery, and found the following:

  •  Chevron did not follow the recommendations of its own inspectors and metallurgical scientists to replace the corroded pipe that ultimately ruptured and caused the fire. Those recommendations dated back to 2002.
  •  Chevron did not follow its own emergency shutdown procedures when the leak was identified, and did not protect its employees and employees of Brand Scaffolding who were working at the leak site.

Twenty-three violations were classified as "serious" due to the realistic possibility of worker injuries and deaths in the fire. Eleven of these serious violations were also classified as "willful" because Cal/OSHA found Chevron did not take reasonable actions to eliminate refinery conditions that it knew posed hazards to employees, and because it intentionally and knowingly failed to comply with state safety standards. The "willful serious" violations include the following:

  •  Chevron did not follow its own policies or act on repeated recommendations to replace the corroded pipe that ultimately ruptured;
  •  Chevron did not test pipe thickness in areas identified as susceptible to corrosion and leaks because of the high temperature and high-sulfur content of the crude oil;
  • Chevron did not implement its own emergency procedures to shut down the Crude Unit where the leak occurred, and exposed workers to harm by directing them to remove insulation;
  •  Chevron did not recognize the potential for a catastrophic release of ignitable diesel fuel from the leaking pipe, and ordered contractor employees to erect a scaffold at the leak site;
  • Chevron allowed workers to enter the hazardous incident zone without proper personal protective equipment;
  •  Chevron had pervasive violations in its leak repair procedures throughout the refinery. Cal/OSHA investigators identified leaks in pipes that Chevron had clamped as a temporary fix. In some cases the clamps remained in place for years, rather than replacing the pipes themselves.

There were also violations in Chevron's overall implementation of its own "process safety management" (PSM) procedures, required by Cal/OSHA of all refineries. PSM regulations require refineries to implement a comprehensive safety plan that includes a precise determination of what hazards exist and procedures to eliminate or reduce them. Employers must ensure that machinery and equipment are in good condition, that work procedures are safe, that hazards are controlled, and that workers are trained to safely operate the equipment, recognize hazards and respond appropriately in emergency situations.  

 

"It is Chevron's responsibility to ensure the safety of its operations. Having an effective workplace safety culture is essential in preventing these kinds of incidents," said Widess. "This case demonstrates the risks that occur when a refinery does not follow its own safety maintenance program."  

 

Coalition Challenges Refineries in Region

 

 

A coalition of labor and community groups has come together to challenge the lack of safety in refineries in the Bay Area. In response to the Cal/OSHA charges against Chevron the coalition issued a statement. Here are some excerpts:  

 

The $1 million in fines for willful and serious safety violations issued by Cal/OSHA today against the Chevron Corporation should be a wake-up call for the Bay Area and the nation, according to a new coalition of labor, community, university, and environmental health groups that has formed following the August 6, 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond.  

 

"This was a near-miss that was totally preventable. It was also inevitable, given the way these companies are running the refineries. And it's probably going to happen again," said Ron Espinoza, state-wide director for the United Steelworkers union (USW) and a leader of the coalition. The USW represents most workers in the California refinery industry. "We see it every day. The companies haven't been doing preventive maintenance, and it's getting more and more dangerous. Refinery accidents are off the charts in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world. We don't think it has to be like this."   

 

The coalition, which formed under the aegis of the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley, consists of the USW, Communities for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the BlueGreen Alliance. The group "found common ground," according LOHP director Mike Wilson, "on the need to engage the industry directly, with every possible tool available, to improve safety and reduce health and environmental damage." "We know that the refineries can meet much higher standards, because they're already doing it in other countries," said Wilson. "They're even the same companies. We don't have the right kinds of regulations here, so the refineries put less attention and investment into safety. The coalition believes California should change that."

 

Filling Council Vacancy
Council to hear Potential Candidates on Monday

 

 

Come to the Council meeting at 6:30pm. Hear the candidates and voice your support for Eduardo.  There will be special rules.  Each candidate will have 8 minutes to present. Public speakers will have 2 minutes each to comment on all the candidates.  

 

Here are some ideas you may wish to consider:

  1. Every Council vacancy in the past has been filled by Council appointment. During the last vacancy in 2006 Bates, (on the Council) and Booze (then the next highest vote getter) argued strongly that the next highest vote getter, Booze should be seated. They were supported by Mayor McLaughlin and the RPA.So much for the hypocritical claims  of "principles" about elections. 
  2. Gary Bell and Eduardo Martinez were not running against each other. It is true that Chevron's literature pictured the two as personal opponents and Chevron spent heavily on Bell and heavily against Martinez.
  3. Almost as many people supported Eduardo for Council as supported Bell. Eduardo has submitted himself for examination by the people of Richmond in the election process.
  4. Most political scientists and other organizational experts do not support the idea of continuous elections. The reason for elections is to choose people to do a certain job-a job they are usually not doing while involved in elections. So the framers of the Richmond Charter chose elections every two years. We need a Council focusing on getting jobs from the LBNL project.
  5. A special election favors candidates with deep pockets (or Chevron backing) to reach people with name recognition and hire the organization to run its campaign. They apparently have already hired the organization and are paying for petition circulators. A grass roots campaign requires time to raise the money and develop the organization to challenge the advantage of money in politics.
  6. The candidate that some have said would be the closest replacement to Bell, Kathleen Sullivan, was not a Bell endorser and her organization backed three other candidates-not Bell.
  7. Where are the resources for this special election to come from? What city services will be cut-back and who will be laid-off?

--Mike Parker

MLK Day Greenway


RPA Activist Info

is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.

Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the author, unsigned text  the views of the editor, Mike Parker, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to  RPAactivist@gmail.com or call  510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.