Yes for Ecuador! Or, Confessions of a Fired Chevron Contractor
My experiences convinced me that corporations like Chevron act like cults. There’s the isolation: believers do not mix with nonbelievers; isolation ensures believers do not doubt or question the corporate mission or the corporation’s role in their lives.
TruthoutFriday October 14, 2011
A resounding cheer for the US appeals court that ruled on September 19, 2011, that Chevron cannot escape an $18 billion fine on behalf of Amazonian residents for the corporation’s massive pollution of the rain forest.
Needless to say, Chevron will appeal the decision; it has been doing so for 18 years. If it manages to crawl out from under this fine, it will not be for lack of effort by activists who keep the spotlight on Chevron for this and other practices that damage the environment and the communities that depend on it.
I was a Chevron subcontractor during George W. Bush’s second term, and there were many mornings I’d honk and wave to friends as I drove to work while they protested corporate polices at the gates of Chevron’s headquarters in San Ramon, California.
My first day on the job coincided with Bush’s re-election. It was impossible to miss the expressions of corporate jubilation in the hallways, break rooms and offices that day; someone wrote “WAR” and drew a smiley face on the whiteboard in my office, too.
Over two years, I successfully implemented a global web site located in a building east of Chevron headquarters. My job performance was good enough that, on completion of that project, I was offered another in corporate headquarters – one floor below then-CEO David O’Reilly, where I rubbed elbows with Chevron’s corporate publicists and marketing mavens.
One of my first responsibilities was to put a “lighter, brighter face” on the public web site Chevron devotes to explaining its side of the Ecuador story. My foreboding about my new role was matched by that then-dark and dreary site, which was branded with Texaco’s black and red palette. Moreover, it was populated with self-serving legal rhetoric about why Chevron was blameless in the horrors that oil spills and lax environmental controls visited upon Ecuador’s forests and on its people.
It was difficult to pretend to enjoy my work or that I had much in common with my colleagues. As a lifelong social justice activist, I was aware of corporate malfeasance around the globe, and I was not good at keeping my emotions hidden. Moreover, my only son was serving in the US Army – to my mind, the element used to project US might in foreign lands and safeguard oil fields for corporations like Chevron. (Eventually, my son was honorably discharged after serving one tour of duty in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.)
I was fired within three months. Had I been a true believer, I’d have fired someone with my attitude, too. For example, meeting with the marketing team in 2006 about Chevron’s strategy to beat Proposition 87 – the Clean Alternative Energy Act – I quipped that Chevron should create a marketing campaign to promote a new gas standard: instead of miles to the gallon, I suggested, the standard should use number of dead Iraqis to the gallon. (Chevron contributed over $34 million to “No on 87” – and won: that Clean Alternative Energy Act failed.)
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