There are many reasons lots of folks hate Exxon Mobil: It makes about as much profit in 35 seconds as the average U.S. household makes in a year; it gets humongous tax breaks from the U.S. government; it bankrolled anti-climate change "research" that set debate on the issue back decades; it charges painful prices for gas; and it purportedly discriminates against gay and lesbian employees. Not to mention that it's rolling, probably naked, in mountains of cash.
All of which is to say that when Exxon Mobil's shareholders have their annual meeting, as they are doing at this moment at the Meyerson, there will be protests. For many reasons.
This year brought maybe three dozen activists of various stripes hold signs and chant slogans across Flora Street in the general direction of the business types who occasionally paused in their elbow-rubbing to gaze through the lobby glass and across the metal concert barricades on the gathering.
Last year, some of the shareholders emerged to argue with the protestors, said Mike Campbell, with Rising Tide North Texas. No such encounters this year, just a collection of faux-counter protestors ("Tax cuts for the wealthy! Keep our pockets healthy!") in tail coats and top hats swilling Champagne that, judging from the impassiveness of the dozen or so police officers (on Segway, bike, and in squad car) and the clarity and non-effervescence of the liquid, was more likely water.
Sheyrl Webster, a 35-year Exxon employee who works for a refinery in Baytown, drove up to call for a long-delayed pay increase for clerical workers like herself and the reinstatement of recently jettisoned safety training programs ("If your training sucks, your refinery will blow up," her sign read.)
Shannon Beebe, not of Baytown, was holding a sign for Code Pink "a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement," according to its website.
"For me, I'm concerned about the environment and how Exxon likes to destroy it and rape the land and the people on it," she said.
Then there were the anti-frackers (one sign, which was leaning against a planter, showed Mr. Kool-Aid being filled from a faucet, flames shooting skyward), Occupy Dallas, MoveOn.org, and members of the United Steelworkers union, some of whom stepped inside the shareholder's meeting.
The most targeted message came from GetEQUAL, an LGBT-rights group that, though I only saw one guy when I arrived who was wearing their T-shirt, was organizing against what it claims are discriminatory practices against gay and lesbian employees.
Year after year, ExxonMobil remains the only Fortune 10 company that refuses to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the corporation's leadership has made it clear that it will only institute such policies if required by federal law. ExxonMobil's Vice President of Investor Relations and Secretary David Rosenthal, in a letter to GetEQUAL following a protest at the 2010 shareholder meeting, stated, "Where we operate in countries in which the national laws require specific language regarding nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity be included in policies, we have amended our policies as appropriate."
Word was that New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli would introduce a shareholder resolution to the effect that Exxon Mobil shouldn't fire or discriminate against employees because of gender or sexual orientation.
For a report on how the proposal does (or, more specifically, how overwhelmingly it gets voted down), David Taffet with the Dallas Voice had the foresight to get press credentials.