16 Feb Council Votes to Support Refinery Workers and Elect New Vice Mayor
By Julia Métraux
The Richmond City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday in support of a safe and fair contract for workers at the Chevron Richmond Refinery. The motion included a directive for staff to send a copy of the resolution to Chevron CEO John Watson. This resolution was brought forth by council members Claudia Jimenez and Eduardo Martinez.
The Chevron Richmond Refinery employs over 1,000 people. During the public comment section of the city council meeting, several residents and employees of the refinery called in, asking for the city’s support.
Over the past decades, numerous incidents at the refinery have threatened the environment and the health and safety of residents. These include a spill of 600 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay from Point Richmond in February 2021 and the August 2012 fire that reportedly sent thousands to the hospital.
“I understand that safety of the workers is intricately tied to the safety of the surrounding community, the community of Richmond,” BK White, a resident of Oakland and a 29-year employee of Chevron, said. “If the workers are exposed, the people of Richmond and the environment are exposed.”
Robert Travis, a lifelong resident of Richmond and 20-year employee of the refinery, said Chevron refused to listen to employees about their concerns, and there is a risk that Chevron will replace union workers with unskilled workers should they go on strike.
“Should the workforce go on strike, we’ve proposed a safe and orderly shutdown of the refinery to protect the community in our absence,” Travis said. “The company has rejected this offer and intends to continue running the refinery operating units without the representative maintenance and operations workforce.”
A handful of callers asked the city council to continue its history of supporting union workers by passing this resolution.
“The city has a legacy of having a revolutionary idea of taking care of its labor force and its citizens, and I hope it will continue,” Richmond resident Gemma Purcell said.
The city council unanimously voted to approve the consent calendar, which included the resolution to support Chevron refinery workers.
Fires at Rydin Road Encampment
During public comment, a handful of residents at the homeless encampment on Rydin Road and members of the greater Richmond community raised concerns about someone setting fires.
One person has allegedly been setting fires around the Rydin Road encampment, threatening the safety of residents there and themselves, as well as causing damage to RVs.
“It is reported that it’s one person responsible for all the fires that are happening there,” Terry Dunn, a participant of Faith in Action East Bay, said. “ I just want to encourage whatever clauses needed for public safety, that when a person is actively setting fires, and they’re not being removed by the police, at the very least, they need to be removed from staying at Rydin.”
Brenda Bowman, a resident of the Rydin Road encampment, said that Rydin needs security cameras in order to document the fires.
“Now the police officers are saying, ‘if he does it again, we need it on video,’ ” Bowman said. “I’m concerned for my family and my community here.”
Election of New Vice Mayor
The council also voted to elect the city’s vice mayor for the year at Tuesday’s meeting. Council member Jimenez nominated council member-at-large Martinez for the position.
The vote to confirm Martinez was unanimous among the council members and Mayor Tom Butt.
Both Martinez and outgoing Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson III are running to be the next mayor of Richmond. Butt is set to retire when his current term expires. The next election for mayor will take place Nov. 8, and both Martinez and Johnson’s current terms on city council will end this year.
Update, Feb. 23, 2022: The East Bay Times reported last month that Johnson would be running for mayor. He told the Pulse more recently, however, that he had never said he would run.