More than 30 people spent their lunch hour protesting outside Chevron's headquarters on Monday afternoon. Participants called for higher taxes for wealthy corporations such as Chevron, which allegedly received a $19 million IRS refund in 2009 without paying taxes.
"We're making Chevron aware that we're aware that they don't pay their fair share and we really want to call attention to Congress," said Frank Burton, regional organizer for MoveOn.org, which organized the event.
The San Ramon rally was one of more than 300 calls to action that took place across the country. Organizing groups, which include Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, are targeting what they said are the "Deadbeat Dozen" of corporations who have avoided paying federal taxes.
"During these difficult economic times where all Americans are being asked to sacrifice, it's absolutely unacceptable that Chevron is shirking their responsibilities," said Move On organizer Karen Berk.
Chevron made $10 billion in profits in 2009, including $324 million in government contracts, the group said. Many concluded that if the "Deadbeat Dozen" had paid taxes, the economy wouldn't be in such dire straits.
"What you gain now in profits by not paying your fair share in taxes will directly affect the children in my classroom and the work force in our state," said Ann Katzburg, a second-grade teacher at Hidden Hills Elementary and vice president of the San Ramon Valley Education Association.
"We're facing such dismal outcomes. Everyone's paying their taxes except the corporations and we're funded by taxes," Katzburg continued, adding that the school district will be devastated by budget cuts next year. "Our problems could be solved with their taxes."
Chevron maintains that it paid taxes in 2009. Company spokesman Sean Comey said the U.S. Oil and natural gas companies pay "considerably more in taxes than the average manufacturing company" with a 40 percent effective tax rate.
"We welcome constructive criticism, unfortunately…sometimes what you hear at protest rallies is inaccurate and misleading," Comey said.
Comey said Chevron's total income taxes amounted to $211 million in 2009 and $2.06 billion in 2010. But according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who has been very vocal about what he calls the "scandal," Chevron had a federal income tax liability of $128 million in 2009, but was able to defer $147 million for a U.S. federal income tax liability of $-19 million.
The protest served as a good civics lesson for 11-year-old Ivy Scherer, who came from Benicia to wave signs and chant, "Make them pay."
"I wanted her to see democracy in action and recognize that the things we do today will be the things that affect her future," said Ivy's grandmother Randy Prine, a Danville resident.
Other rallies were planned outside San Francisco City Hall, the Santa Clara County Government Building, outside a Bank of America building on Macdonald Avenue in Richmond and at a post office on MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland.