Leah Fried has been a union organizer with the UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America) for 12 years
Over 5,000 people greeted the American Bankers Association today outside their fancy Magnificent Mile hotel in downtown Chicago. People took to the streets to voice their disgust at bank greed and to fight the misery caused by bank abuses. There were many unemployed workers, people who have lost their homes or are about to be in foreclosure. Not a single person standing on tired feet in the crowd of thousands was unaffected by this bank caused crisis. A lot of pain and suffering that didn’t need to happen. That could be righted tomorrow with the right policies.
The ABA, whose members include the six largest banks, has been lobbying hard against the many proposed reforms that would regulate banks. They are happy to take the $4.7 trillion taxpayers gave to the financial sector over the last year, but those banks aren’t about to accept limits on executive bonuses, credit card reform, overdraft fee regulation, loan modification programs and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Instead the largest six banks are scheduled to give $74.4 billion in bonuses and compensation in 2009. These same banks reported $29.6 billion in profits in the first half of 2009.
So what are they doing with all this money? Not investing in our economy. After the bailout lending to small businesses dropped 42% over the previous year. That’s how Quad City Die Casting closed. Wells Fargo denied financing to the business after many years of providing credit and managing the workers pension fund. It wasn’t because they weren’t making money; they were turning a profit despite the drop in orders. In fact, after the bank foreclosed on the company it cleared 1 million in profit during the last four months it was open. After making so much money, you’d think they would pay the 100 or so workers the $220,000 in pay and benefits they had earned and are legally owed. But Wells Fargo told the workers they wouldn’t get a penny.
And they banks aren’t working to modify mortgages so people can stay in their homes. Every 13 seconds a family loses their home to foreclosure. Now that Keith Scribner is unemployed after working at Quad City Die Casting for 19 years, he can’t make his payments on unemployment benefits alone. Bank of America owns his mortgage and isn’t wasting time modifying his loan, instead they have given him a warning – pay up in full or lose your house.
So we join together to demand:
1. No more foreclosures. Bankers should hand over their outrageous bonuses to fund loan modification programs that will keep families in their homes.
2. Provide the same low or no interest loans currently offered to banks to state and local governments to help pay to keep kids in daycare, hospitals open, and our streets safe.
3. Restore lending to small businesses to keep people working or get them back to work.
4. Stop robbing us blind with high credit card interest and overdraft fees.
5. End lobbying efforts to block necessary regulation of the financial sector.
Leah Fried has been an union organizer with the UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America) for 12 years
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