Louisiana Teachers Mobilize Against ExxonMobil Tax Exemption

Sometimes the boss offers us a fight that directly exposes the destructive effects of corporate power.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that moment came when ExxonMobil asked for yet another handout from taxpayers—property tax exemptions totaling $6 million.

For the ninth-largest corporation in the world, it was a routine request. ExxonMobil is accustomed to receiving such perks from obedient state officials. But teachers saw it differently: as a $6 million theft from the local schools budget.

Educators and other school employees voted 445-6 on October 23 to stage a one-day walkout the following week. Teachers planned to pack a hearing on ExxonMobil’s requests.

Within hours of the union vote, the company’s exemption bids were off the Board of Industry and Commerce’s agenda.

Government + Business = True Love

The backstory here is how members of two teachers unions and a Service Employees local in East Baton Rouge got educated about the connection between corporate giveaways and the deteriorating conditions in their schools.

These unions participate in a faith, labor, and community coalition called Together Baton Rouge, which holds “Civic Academies” to educate about community issues, including education. It was there that union members learned more about the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

The ITEP, enacted 44 years ago, makes corporations eligible for tax exemptions if they can show—or claim—that their expenses for projects will contribute to a community’s economic growth.

In this round of requests, ExxonMobil was asking for tax exemptions for work completed two years ago. The company didn’t even bother to argue that the new exemptions would bring jobs or more revenue.

In the Civic Academies, union members learned to find ExxonMobil’s submissions and read them for themselves. “They see the date of submission and the date of project completion and they see it doesn’t make sense,” said…

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