There’s Always Shell and Sunoco

By Jeffrey Page

Here’s where it stands.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Twelve countries now allow it, the latest being France. Action later this year in New Zealand and Uruguay could make it 14 countries that recognize the rights and humanity of gay people.

 Even the Boy Scouts have chosen to take a timorous half-step into the 21st Century and acknowledge after 103 years that gay scouts and straight scouts tie square knots precisely the same way. No longer will gay kids automatically be barred, or kicked out of their troops. But it will take more time and protest until the scouts finally allow gay men and lesbians to hold leadership roles.

All this has happened in the very recent past, and no one can honestly say he was unaware that the culture was changing. Yet, some institutions have simply folded their arms on the matter of equal rights for all their people and self-righteously declared: Not in my outfit, not in my organization. One such is Exxon Mobil, which finds it impossible to understand that to reject the demands for workplace equality by gay men and women is to cast doubt on the decency and courage of the company’s officers and shareholders.

Specifically, for the 14th year in a row, shareholders have rejected a proposal to formally prohibit discrimination against gay men and lesbians at Exxon Mobil.

As a result, I’ve decided not to contribute another dime to Exxon Mobil’s coffers, but will buy gasoline elsewhere. Finding a substitute should not be difficult. The Times reported last week that most of Exxon’s competitors have included gay people in their policies on workplace discrimination.

Clearly my protest won’t do much to change attitudes and practices at Exxon headquarters in Irving, Texas, but we do what we have to do.

In going over my 2012 check book register, I found that I spent $667.63 at Exxon gas stations. Interesting statistical aside: $667.63 is about what Rex W. Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, makes in an hour and a half on the job. Forbes puts his salary at $2.2 million. I don’t know if he works a 40-hour week.

So once again – explanation to follow – I am putting scissors to my Exxon Mobil gas card and sending the snipped pieces to Texas (Attn: Tillerson) along with a note announcing that I will not do business with a company that sees some people as less than worthy of fairness on the job site.

“Tillerson,” I will write. “You want to play games with human rights? Not with my $667.63 so deal me out.”

The first time I returned an Exxon card was after the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989, when the tanker ran aground and spilled 11 million gallons of Alaskan crude into Prince William Sound. The skipper was found guilty of a negligent discharge of oil and fined $50,000.

In 1989 as well as now, my gas purchases weren’t making the difference between profit and loss on Exxon’s financial statement. But when a spill befouls 1,300 miles of shoreline, kills thousands of birds and fish, and disrupts the lives of countless individuals and small business owners, you’re supposed to do something about it, say something about it.

I tore up my Exxon card but continued using my Mobil card. A decade later, Exxon and Mobil merged. I continued my boycott of Exxon but naively continued to buy Mobil gas, I am not happy to say.

I won’t make such a mistake again, though I would reconsider my Exxon boycott if and when the company wakes up and provides to gay people the protections it offers other employees.

One more thing. Such a policy change at Exxon would have to be accompanied by an apology for taking so long to do the right thing.

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6 Responses to “There’s Always Shell and Sunoco”

  1. Carole Howard Says:

    Thanks, Jeff. I didn’t know that about Exxon. Unfortunately, I don’t have an Exxon card to cut up and send back, but I can still do the right thing: not buy their gas.

  2. Naomi Says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. I stopped buying Exxon after the Valdez spill when Exxon did not want to pay to clean up the mess. As if it could be cleaned up. i did not know about their anti-gay policy. More fuel for staying away from their pumps. On to Sunoco!

  3. Ken Says:

    Regarding the Boy Scouts’ half step. I’d say it was a quarter step. They still don’t allow atheists as members or scoutmasters.

    I haven’t bought from Exxon-Mobil for years. Don’t plan to start now.

  4. Michael Says:

    Great post Jeff. Remember how Exxon started running ads after the Valdez spill about how they were “working for a clean environment?” It reminds me of the BP ads today about all the wonderful things happening in the Gulf states thanks to them. I don’t buy their gas either. I buy Chevron whenever I get the chance.

  5. Russ Layne Says:

    Hi, Jeff,

    Well spoken….except maybe the piece’s title. I’d also say no. quite loudly, to Shell. Its track record in Nigeria is detestable! Remember Ken Sara-Wiwa!!! (Activist writer who was executed by the Nigerian government for protesting wanton Shell pollution.)


  6. Daniel Page Says:

    And on the other end of the spectrum is my employer, Subaru who promotes workplace diversity and embraces all contributions from all employees regardless of race, color, sexual preference, etc. There are some great companies in corporate America!

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