The People vs. Big Oil-how a working-class company town harnessed the power of local politics to reclaim their community
With a foreword by Bernie Sanders
Home to one of the largest oil refineries in the state, Richmond, California, was once a typical company town, dominated by Chevron. This largely nonwhite, working-class city of 100,000 suffered from poverty, pollution, and poorly funded public services. It had one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the country and a jobless rate twice the national average.
But when veteran labor reporter Steve Early moved from New England to Richmond in 2012, he discovered a city struggling to remake itself. In Refinery Town, Early chronicles the 15 years of successful community organizing that raised the local minimum wage, defeated a casino development project, challenged home foreclosures and evictions, and sought fair taxation of Big Oil.
A short list of Richmond's activist residents helps to propel this compelling chronicle:
• 94 year old Betty Reid Soskin, the country's oldest full-time national park ranger and witness to Richmond's complex history
• Gayle McLaughlin, the Green Party mayor who challenged Chevron and won
• Police Chief Chris Magnus, who brought community policing to Richmond and is now one of America's leading public safety reformers
Part urban history, part call to action, Refinery Town shows how concerned citizens can harness the power of local politics to reclaim their community and make municipal government a source of much-needed policy innovation.
"Refinery Town provides an inside look at how one American city has made radical and progressive change seem not only possible but sensible."-David Helvarg, The Progressive
Steve Early has been an organizer, lawyer, union representative, and labor activist for the past forty-five years. He is the author of three other books, including Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress. He lives in Richmond, California, with his wife.
To Change U.S. Politics, We Need More Cities Like Richmond, California by Bernie Sanders
From Company Town to Progressive City
A Refiner's Fire
The Greening of City Hall
Richmond's Community Policeman
Tuesday Night Cage Fights
An Election Not for Sale
Celebrating Our Differences?
Gentrification and Its Discontents
Making Local Progress