Exxon Shareholders Refuse USW Request to Disclose Lobbying Expenses

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Carrying their corporate campaign to the heart of the nation’s “oil patch,” refinery workers, all members of the United Steelworkers (USW), tried to curb ExxonMobil’s lobbying excesses at the firm’s May 30 shareholders meeting in Dallas.

But the institutional investors who hold huge quantities of stock in the nation’s largest oil company – which took in $269 billion in revenue last year -- didn’t agree.

Instead, they kowtowed to company execs who recommended rejection of the union’s plan for full disclosure of the firm’s federal, state and local lobbying. Shareholders voted the proposal down for the sixth straight year. Vote totals were unavailable. But the USW proposal drew 28 percent of shareholder votes last year.

USW Local 13-2001 President Ricky Brooks presented the union’s “sunshine” proposal. He was joined by USW National Oil Bargaining Director Kim Nibarger, who said the firm’s “shareholders have a right to know how ExxonMobil is spending their money to influence legislation and change regulatory protection that may not be in their or their family’s best interest.”  

As the USW campaigned for greater transparency inside the meeting, Australian workers forced to strike at an Exxon refinery Down Under marched on the sidewalk out front. “The Australians have some questions they want the company to answer,” the USW members said.

The Aussie workers had proxies to vote and questions to ask about Exxon’s ability to escape Australian taxes from 2013 until at least 2021, but security guards barred the workers from the meeting.

The USW’s resolution said the union and its allies “believe in full disclosure of ExxonMobil’s direct and indirect lobbying activities and expenditures to assess whether ExxonMobil’s lobbying is consistent with its expressed goals and in the best interests of shareholders.”

They demanded a yearly management report on company lobbying and procedures, including “grassroots lobbying communications,” how much ExxonMobil spends on lobbying and who it spends the money on and why. Firms such as ExxonMobil often establish fake grassroots lobbying groups with misleading names.


USW also demanded disclosure of “ExxonMobil’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses ‘model legislation’” – a dig at its sponsorship of a notorious corporate cabal, the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. And it demanded the firm’s board disclose how it decides what to lobby on and how that is monitored.

ExxonMobil spent over $94 million on federal lobbying since 2010, the USW said. It also lobbies in 33 states, a Center for Public Integrity investigation showed. “But the company’s disclosure is uneven or absent. ExxonMobil does not provide this information, and it is only disclosed if reporters dig for it,” the union added. ExxonMobil, opposing the USW, said it produced “appropriate” disclosure of its lobbying. It didn’t define “appropriate.”



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