Confront Corporate Power: Coast to Coast
This week National People's Action launched Confront Corporate Power, a campaign in conjunction with a number of progressive, labor, student, and environmental groups to take back our democracy from the biggest and most powerful corporate interests in the country.
Below is a round-up of the action, so far. Make sure to follow #99power on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates on Confront Corporate Power.
Here's a summary of the action:
A delegation of family farmers and Des Moines residents delivered the letter to the Bank of America branch near the Iowa State Capitol. From there they went over to Wells Fargo regional headquarters to deliver the letter there as well. At both big banks there was already a process in place for receiving such letters, which speaks to level of anger being expressed! The action was organized by NPA affiliate, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.
Members of Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine Small Business Coalition gathered outside the Bank of America branch in downtown Portland today, one of more than 50 events nationwide being organized by the ‘Confront Corporate Power’ coalition. The Coalition launched in Portland and across the nation this week in a coordinated effort to draw attention to the unethical practices and undue political influence of some of the nation’s largest corporations.
Mainers spoke about the ways corporations like Bank of America caused the economic collapse and what the troubled economy has meant for their lives and their families. Several of them then delivered a letter of their intent to attend the stock holders meeting later this year.
“We are calling out the companies like Bank of America who are most responsible for undermining our democracy and widening the gap between rich and poor. Our demands are clear and simple: corporations must pay their fair share of taxes, stop gouging consumers with high rates and home foreclosures, and pledge to keep their big money out of the 2012 elections.” said Genevieve Lysen, Lead Organizer at Maine People’s Alliance.
“Bank of America took a billion-dollar bailout from the American taxpayers while making it harder for small businesses to take out loans," said Nate Libby, Director of the Maine Small Business Coalition. "For Maine's small business community, access to credit is a major concern that's fallen on deaf ears by Bank of America. This is a clear example of taking direction from Wall Street rather than heeding the concerns of Main Street where the vast majority of new jobs are created."
One of the speakers was Heidi Brooks, of Lewiston, who has a quarter million dollars in student loan debt owed to big banks for her time at medical school. Brooks said her debt has been racking up thousands of dollars in interest and fees every year; she’s currently on disability and unable to practice medicine. “The big banks have been garnishing my disability checks each month. I’m sure the amount they are taking doesn’t even scratch the interest and collection fees, but for me the money would be spent on utilities. I’m caught in a spiral of increasing debt. Bank of America profits off of the vulnerable. They don’t pay taxes. They get government bailouts. It’s time they pay their fair share, with interest and collection fees.”
No one likes to get bad news, including Bank of America. That’s why we are not surprised that Bank of America refused our letter today in Charlottesville. Virginia Organizing attempted to deliver a letter putting Bank of America on notice that there will be massive protest at their shareholders meeting this spring. The branch manager refused the letter but we made a beeline for the nearest post office and sent it off to CEO Brian Moynihan. With his 2010 compensation at $35.1 million, we hope he will take a couple minutes to hear our concerns!
The letter delivery is one of many big bank actions Virginia Organizing has held in recent months and is part of an ongoing Move Our Money/Confront Corporate Power campaign.
“We are calling on people to flood the shareholder meetings of the most destructive corporations in America this spring. And Bank of America is among the worst. The 99 percent will transform meetings reserved for a discussion of corporate profits into a national dialogue about creating an economy that works for everyone,” said Brenda Lambert of Virginia Organizing.
Following the letter delivery, residents shared their reasons for protesting the shareholder meeting and why they are moving their money from Bank of America. Virginia Organizing plans to join hundreds of other 99 percenters at the next shareholders meeting of Bank of America, which is expected to be in May in Charlotte, North Carolina. We will continue the fight for a fair economy: today in Charlottesville, Virginia, tomorrow in Charlotte, NC. Bank of America is everywhere and so are we!
Yesterday, Communities United For Action members delivered a letter for Chase CEO Jamie Dimon at the Chase branch in downtown Cincinnati. Members met with Vice President Sheree Rosfeld who promised to see that Dimon receives the letter. CUFA members discussed their concerns about foreclosures in Hamilton County, and Rosfeld informed them about a new housing center that has opened in Cincinnati to give people direct access to mortgage modifications. CUFA members asked about principal reduction for underwater homeowners and informed Rosfeld that we will be at the shareholders’ meeting to demand principal reduction.
From Detroit Free Press:
With 30 voices echoing through the lobby of Detroit’s New Center Building, activists with Occupy Detroit and other groups protested what they call “abusive lending practices” and banks’ part in the mortgage crisis.
Targeting Bank of America, the protest was organized by members of Occupy Our Homes, a spin-off of the Occupy movement that focuses more on foreclosures and mortgage company practices. The group marched a couple of blocks down Woodward Avenue with signs with slogans like “Save the American Dream!” and “Empty Homes, Foreclosed Dreams” before arriving at the Bank of America offices on West Grand Boulevard.
“Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!” they chanted inside the lobby at about noon today, as curious onlookers stopped and took Occupy Detroit flyers from members of the group.
Leading the charge was Dave Kirby, 36, who lost his Lincoln Park home to foreclosure after losing his job during the economic downturn.
“I’m glad Bank of America can write off their losses,” he said. “We can’t!”
Scott Ritchie, 39, of Atlanta, Ga., was waiting in line at the Bank of America ATM machine as the protesters walked out. Ritchie, who works in information security for AT&T, said he’s seen a 30% decrease in his home value in Atlanta and is upset by the foreclosure crisis.
“I’m all for freedom of speech and I’m really happy they’re out here,” he said. “A few minutes of exercising their rights before slowly encouraging them to leave, everyone wins."
On December 6, Respect DC, along with Organization United for Respect at Walmart (O.U.R. Walmart) members and their supporters, made their first visit to the Marriott headquarters in Bethesda, and were turned away. When they returned on February 1, returned again in an attempt to talk to Walmart board member and Marriott International President Arne Sorenson, security immediately recognized the group saying, "No, we're not doing this again."
Respect DC is calling on Mr. Sorenson to meet with members of OUR Walmart and to ask Walmart board chair Rob Walton and CEO Mike Duke to do the same. Security insisted we could not talk to Mr. Sorenson but took our letter and said he would deliver it. We still have no response from Mr. Sorenson, but this is not the last time he will hear from us.
From Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE): After the shocking news that Freddie Mac placed billion-dollar bets against homeowners in direct conflict with its mission of making homeownership more affordable, angry southern California residents protestd the mortgage giant’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles Thursday, fighting to protect homeowner and ex-Marine Arturo de los Santos from eviction.
Protestors then proceeded to the home in Riverside where Art, his wife and four kids have moved back in and launch an around-the-clock encampment to support him. Freddie Mac is going to court Thursday to obtain a writ of possession on the house, and Sheriff deputies could arrive to evict anytime.
Demonstrators demanded a halt to the eviction by Freddie Mac of ex-Marine Arturo de los Santos and called on Freddie Mac to re-invest in its mission "to expand opportunities for homeownership" by supporting and promoting mortgage reductions to fair market value for underwater homeowners, which according to a recent study, would create over 1 million jobs and inject over $70 billion into the economy.
Arturo de los Santos, who lives in Riverside, CA with his wife and four children, is the face of the American homeowner that Freddie Mac is betting against. An ex-marine, Arturo has lived in the home for about ten years with his wife and four kids. When the economic crisis hit in 2008, the factory he works at reduced his hours. Like millions of hardworking Americans, the reduced income forced him to pursue a modification in his mortgage. Freddie Mac’s mortgage servicer, JP Morgan Chase, informed de los Santos that in order to negotiate a loan modification he had to be in default on his loan. De los Santos was caught in the Catch-22 that proved to be profitable for Freddie Mac.
Freddie Mac and Chase launched foreclosure proceedings. Before the house was foreclosed, de los Santos’ hours and income returned to its pre-crash levels, but his pleas to his bank and Freddie Mac to negotiate a permanent modification fell on deaf ears and he was foreclosed and evicted.
On December 6, Art and his family took the courageous step of re-occupying their home. de los Santos has the income to afford the property, and since moving back in he has publicly asked Freddie Mac (and his lender JPMorgan Chase) why they won’t accept his money. de los Santos saw the shocking news about Freddie Mac this week after he got a court summons at his door from Freddie Mac threatening to arrest him if he doesn’t leave his house. de los Santos is a member of ACCE, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
From Connecticut Citizen Action Group: On Wednesday, organizers with CT Citizen Action Group delivered a demand letter to Bank of America, one of the worst culprits of tax evasion and consumer issues. Demanding that the bank treat workers fairly, provide principal reduction to homeowners, be fully investigated for fraudulent mortgage practices, and refuse to use depositor money in politics the letter was delivered in Hartford, CT. Video of the action here:
From Reverand Cheryl Rivera: Myself, six Federation Clergy, and four Laity delivered the letter to Jessica Watts, Vice President, JP Morgan Chase Regional Corporate office.
It was a spirited encounter. We entered into the Chase Bank lobby, asked for Jessica Watts and a man who said he was an executive came out to tell us we could not have our protest signs in Chase Bank.
Jessica Watts soon approached, asking what she could do for the group.
Federation Script included 6 clergy railing Chase for bad corpoarate behavior. IIRON, NPA and Bottom Line were lifted up.
We were threatend with arrest and asked to leave the property by Chase Executive and Property Mananger. Rev. Crews shouted to Chase Executives: "Call the Police, we are prepared to go to jail for what we believe in. Chase is wrong!"
Streitelmeier added firmly, "You will arrest us for civil protest, but noboby who bankrupted this country's economy went to jail?"
We left the bank lobby singing, WE SHALL OVERCOME and then we went outside for evaluation. Pastor Chester Bell said "I'm mad as hell." Before we finished three Merrillville Police rolled up beside us and told to "Leave the property right now or you will be arrested. They don't want you on the property. You've been warned 3 times." We disbursed and vowed to fight another day. We'll be back.
A dozen people with signs, marched, chanted, read the letter, signed it, and delivered it to the security guard at a Bank of America branch. The angry/frustrated manager came out while we were reading the letter and confronted us, but we were standing on public sidewalk so he had no grounds to ask us to move.
Police were called, but when the officer came, he mostly seemed annoyed that the manager had called him. We had one reporter show up from our local NBC affiliate.
From Chicago Northside P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized to Work, Educate and Restore): On Wednesday, Northside P.O.W.E.R. leaders marched to Bank of America to demand the bank adjust the mortgage of Evanston resident Rita Pope. The march continued to Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office to demand she withdraw Illinois from the 50 state robosigning settlement.
Bank of America, despite having been bailed out by taxpayers, has refused to return the favor to unemployed and underemployed homeowners who are struggling to repay their mortgages. Ms. Pope has applied for “hardest hit” help, but Bank of America refuses to write down principal on the mortgage. Unless community leaders intervene, Bank of America intends to evict Ms. Pope.
After the "robosigning" fraud was discovered in the mortgage industry, AGs from all 50 states entered negotiations for a settlement designed to be a slap on the wrist. Due to the fundamental inadequacy of this process, a number of state AGs have since pulled out of the negotiations, including New York and California. Illinois' AG Lisa Madigan must do likewise. We call for her to support a full investigation into fraud in the mortgage industry, and a settlement that addresses the full $700 billion of underwater mortgage debt.
New York City
A number of leaders from VOCAL-NY recently became shareholders of Bank of America. These shareholders arrived at a Bank of America office on Wednesday to deliver a letter with the demands of Confront Corporate Power. Instead of accepting the letter, the bank called the police on it's own shareholders. The leaders left without delivering the letter, but not without a message: "We'll see you at the [shareholder] meeting."
On Thursday, January 2nd demonstrators in Minnesota went to Wells Fargo’s state headquarters to RSVP to the annual shareholder’s meeting. This spring they will be joining with others from around the U.S. to talk with the company’s managers directly.
This actino was coordinated by NPA affiliate, Take Action Minnesota.