Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chevron throws a bone--I mean a pizza--to residents of Appalachian town

Katie Colaneri reports today for NPR about the giant corporation's distribution of coupons for free pizza to residents of Bobtown, Pennsylvania, population 757, in the wake of an explosion at one of its nearby natural gas wells.  The cause of the February explosion, which killed 27-year-old Ian McKee, is still unknown. While outsiders have tended to view Chevron's response as scandalous in its inadequacy--Stephen Colbert quipped that Chevron's gesture was "literally the least they could possibly do"--not all residents see it that way.  Joann Herrington, for example, stated:  
I just thought that they was just showing their appreciation of us standing by them with all the trucking, with all the traffic, with all the noise and stuff."
Colaneri explains the "complicated" relationship between companies and communities in Appalachia, noting that Bobtown has long been a company town--there was coal before there was natural gas--and that many residents take pride in that, "savor[ing] the rituals of a close-knit company town," even after coal's heyday.  Colaneri continues:
Food is a big part of Bobtown tradition, including the rites of grief: Someone dies, and neighbors bring dinner to the family.
On the food link, Colaneri quotes Bonnie Gansor, a beauty salon owner in Bobtown:
Maybe that's kind of why everybody was so surprised at the reaction to the pizza thing, because we're just used to that. If something happens, you give people food. I never looked at it as a negative thing, you know?
Julieann Wozniak, on the other hand, thinks Chevron should do more.
Like we'd be satisfied with pizza coupons for God's sakes.
She also expressed disappointment that media furor over the pizza offer has detracted attention from the need for greater safety precaution--and from one young man's death.  Invoking the legacy of her grandfather, who was blacklisted for organizing miners, Wozniak states:  
I think an equal attention should be paid to workers' safety. I mean, that was what union organizing was about back in my grandfather's day — assuring that workers didn't die at a prodigious rate in the mines — and here we have this new industry and it's the same old, same old.
The story reminds me of the crushingly low expectations that poor, rural people often have for their lives.  

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