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What A California Refinery Town Can Teach America

By Kathy Kiely

A soon-to-be-published book by a longtime labor organizer chronicles how a grass-roots democracy movement overcame corporate money.

In Richmond, California, a refinery town near San Francisco, a vibrant community coalition is proving that democracy is powered by votes, not money. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

When longtime labor activist Steve Early moved to Richmond, California, he thought San Francisco’s gritty neighbor would be a good place to observe and participate in a vibrant local political community whose battles against corporate neighbor Chevron have been chronicled by Bill Moyers. What he didn’t know was that he’d find the topic for his latest book — one that is all the more timely following the results of last month’s elections. In his forward for Early’s Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money and the Making of An American City, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) writes: “Our country obviously need a a great deal of change at the state and federal levels. But laying a solid local foundation, like activists in Richmond have done, is an important first step.” Early’s book will be available next month; in an interview with Kathy Kiely of BillMoyers.com, he provides a sneak preview.

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