In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, Governor Wolf has called for all non-essential businesses across Pennsylvania to close for at least two weeks to contain the spread of the dangerous virus.
But workers—and their families—at a massive fossil fuel project just outside of Pittsburgh wanted to know why their safety wasn’t being treated as a priority.
Appalling Working Conditions Put Everyone at Risk For Coronavirus
Thousands of workers building the Shell ‘cracker’ plant in Potter Township were riding crowded buses to the job site, where unsanitary bathrooms lacked soap, paper towels and hand sanitizer. In clear violation of CDC guidance on COVID-19, they were attending meetings and eating in close quarters, which clearly puts themselves, their families and their communities in danger
So these workers bravely began reaching out to local media outlets, Food & Water Watch organizers and other local groups. They sent pictures of the awful conditions at the job site, pleading with the company and state officials to step up and do something.
Seeing no real movement from officials, Food & Water Watch stepped up to the plate. We organized a robust action campaign that included outreach to thousands of residents in surrounding communities, generating calls to the Governor’s office, and an online petition calling for action. Workers have joined us in making calls to the governor’s office to demand that his administration do the same for them as for other workers across the state.
The pressure was clearly mounting, and on March 18 Shell finally relented, announcing a shut down while the facility is cleaned and additional mitigation measures are implemented. This was not nearly good enough. At the same time that Governor Wolf was calling for widespread measures to protect Pennsylvanians in this time of crisis, companies like Shell were given a pass to make woefully inadequate decisions, regardless of the risk. We dug our heels in and forged ahead.
Victory came on March 19 through an executive order delivered by Governor Wolf shutting down all non-life-sustaining businesses. This time the order included Shell.