Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City

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Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City

27.95

The People vs. Big Oil—how a working-class company town harnessed the power of local politics to reclaim their community

Home to one of the largest oil refineries in the state, Richmond, California, was once a typical company town bankrolled by Chevron. This largely nonwhite, working-class city of a hundred thousand had experienced the by-products of decades’ worth of poverty, substandard housing, and poorly funded public education. It had one of the highest homicide rates, per capita, in the country and a jobless rate often twice the national average.

But in 2012, when veteran labor reporter Steve Early moved from New England to Richmond, he witnessed a surprising transformation. In Refinery Town, Early chronicles the ten years of successful community organizing in Richmond that raised the minimum wage, defeated a casino development project, created a municipal ID to aid undocumented workers, challenged home foreclosures, and took on a big oil giant. Here me we meet a dynamic cast of characters—from 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 city’s first Green Party mayor who led the movement to sue Chevron—and won, to former police chief Chris Magnus, who pioneered “community policing” in Richmond, and is now celebrated as one of the country’s most effective police reformers.

Part regional history, part call to action, Refinery Town is far more than the story of how one community defeated one company and remade itself into a revolutionary city. Richmond is merely a single example of how members of local government and empowered citizens can drive the nation forward, one city at a time.

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