Moving Target

The city is rolling out the welcome mat for CITGO. But many workers want the company to get lost.

Local politicians are salivating. "Anytime you're creating new jobs, I'm all fired up about it," says City Councilman Mark Ellis. "Any new jobs for the city is a good thing."

"We want more headquarters coming to our city," says Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. "There are some companies that have left, and we need to be as aggressive as possible in bringing jobs back to the city."

It would also be a boon to real estate agents. Vacancies downtown are at an alarming 17.6 percent, says John Parsley, a principal at Colliers International. They're expected only to worsen with the Enron building opening for tenants. A company the size of CITGO could use as many as 13 floors in a good-sized building. "That would be big-time," he says. "Everyone would jump all over that deal."

No one from the company visited Sterling while he 
was hospitalized. The firing came via certified mail.
Daniel Kramer
No one from the company visited Sterling while he was hospitalized. The firing came via certified mail.
The union is pushing its message on Texas 225.
Daniel Kramer
The union is pushing its message on Texas 225.

Everyone except, perhaps, Lyondell-CITGO employees. "Just what we need, an anti-American, anti-union company coming here," Greenlee says.

Lovett can't understand that attitude. "We'd like to enable them to make a decision to come here," she says. "I can't imagine why union officials wouldn't be supportive of a project of this nature." She's met with representatives from the union, and she's talked to the AFL-CIO's Shaw; in her polite way, she makes it clear she'd like them to shut up: "We need people making this company feel like it's the best place for them to operate."

Billy Ray and Donna Sterling won't be joining that chorus. "CITGO doesn't value anything," Billy Ray says. He thinks about his own seven years of service, ended with an abrupt letter and no expression of sympathy. "Sure, they want that tax break, but they are not a good company."

Mike and Rachel Todd have no plans to lay out the welcome mat, either. They've done their best to stay positive. Even though Christmas was bleak, Rachel says, she feels blessed that Jackie is still a toddler.

"How do you explain to a five-year-old that there is no Christmas this year because Daddy doesn't have any money?" Rachel looks around the house, their dream house, with its bare walls and packed boxes. There's no Christmas tree, no stacks of presents. "It's harder on me," Rachel says. "I'm glad she doesn't realize it. Because I think about it, and I want to cry."

And that has primed Mike Todd for action against CITGO. "I was planning to go down to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to picket at their headquarters," he says. "This will just make it more convenient. We'll be on their doorstep picketing the moment they arrive."

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