USW Members Confront Exxon on Workers’ Rights, Transparency

USW members joined striking Australian union members at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, May 30, in Dallas to confront the company over its treatment of the Australian contractors and to advocate for greater transparency from the company on its political spending.

Longtime USW member and ExxonMobil employee Ricky Brooks, president of Local 13-2001, presented shareholders with a proposal, on behalf of the USW and 25 co-filers, that would require ExxonMobil to file a report detailing the company’s spending on political lobbying, both individually and through industry groups, each year. The proposal received 26 percent of shareholders’ votes. 

In addition to advocating for the transparency proposal, Brooks spoke out about safety issues at his Baytown, Texas, facility and brought attention to the unjust actions ExxonMobil has supported against the striking union members in Australia.

Two hundred workers have been on strike for about a year against a maintenance contractor that works for ExxonMobil’s Australian subsidiary, Esso Australia. The contractor has slashed wages and benefits and imposed a more burdensome work schedule.

Steven Soloman, one of four Australian workers who traveled to Dallas, attended the meeting and was prepared to confront the company about the hundreds of millions of dollars it has spent on union-busting efforts. Company officials, however, refused to allow him to speak. 

The company also took the extreme step of banning the other three Australian workers from admittance to the meeting, despite remarks from ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods acknowledging that the company would need its world-class work force to reach its goal of doubling productivity in downstream and chemical sectors and tripling productivity in upstream activities by 2025.

The company’s stated reason for barring the workers was to protect shareholder safety. However, none of the three banned union members have been charged with any crimes related to their legal strike in Australia.

The three barred union members were able to make their presence known outside the meeting by handing out leaflets to shareholders detailing their struggles and by speaking to a crowd of other organizations in attendance.

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