Bobby Thompson stood in front of the Texaco station Saturday morning at Pico Boulevard and Ogden Drive in Los Angeles and cut his Texaco credit card into pieces.
"This," he explained, "is how I feel about Texaco."
The shredding occurred as Thompson and other members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black American Political Assn. of California called for a national boycott of Texaco Inc. products to protest racist remarks made by company executives.
The taped comments--which came to light last week after a transcript was filed in court in New York--have set off a national furor and caused acute embarrassment among Texaco officials.
The transcript of a 1994 meeting of Texaco executives quotes them using racial slurs and discussing the destruction of material they apparently thought could be used against the company in a discrimination suit brought by black middle managers. "This shows you that even in the boardrooms of America, they're talking about black people, calling us jelly beans, calling us niggers," complained Glen Brown, acting chairman of the political association's local chapter.
"At the same time," he said angrily, "right here in the African American community what they're doing is sucking up our money. They take those profits and they come back and they talk about us. They exclude us from employment, contracting opportunities.
"We're not going to tolerate this," Brown proclaimed.
He and a small contingent from the black group picketed the station, holding aloft signs urging a boycott and vowing to demonstrate week after week at other Texaco stations.
"We will continue to express our outrage until the executives are terminated and the African American employees' issues are resolved to their satisfaction," Brown said.
Mechanics at the station ignored the protest, continuing their work. But the picketing kept drivers away from the gas pump islands, which were empty.
"It's unfair," protested William Lor, who has leased the station from Texaco for a decade and who said 90% of his customers are black. "I'm just a small man here. . . . What can I say? What can I do?"
Members of the political association said they had nothing against Lor, but were "going for Texaco."
Company officials have publicly apologized for the remarks and last week took action against the four executives involved in the episode. Texaco suspended two of them, suspended health and insurance benefits for a third who had retired, and cut off severance pay to the fourth, a recently laid-off personnel manager who had secretly tape-recorded the meeting and later turned the tapes over to the plaintiffs' side in the discrimination suit.
"We are responding immediately, swiftly and very strongly to the tapes," Texaco spokeswoman Barbara Kornylo said Saturday in response to the boycott call. "We're doing everything we possibly can to make sure everyone at Texaco understands how horrible those words are and the impact of those words."
She said Texaco's chief executive officer contacted civil rights leaders last week and is arranging meetings with them. Senior executives will also visit the company's regional headquarters this week, including one in Los Angeles, to apologize to employees and emphasize that the workplace must be free of intolerance, Kornylo said.
The call for a boycott is not the only possible financial fallout from the tapes. Last week, the value of the company's stock declined somewhat. And in a letter to Texaco complaining about the remarks and demanding an accounting of them, the New York state comptroller pointed out that the state's pension funds hold about $114 million in company stocks.
Brown also said his organization will urge unions to rid their pension funds of Texaco stock.