Activists Plan Pro-Financial Reform Rallies, Lobby Days

Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:22pm

As Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) continue closed-door negotiations on financial regulatory reform, activists are ramping up their lobbying campaign against Wall Street.

National People’s Action, Service Employees International Union, the AFL-CIO, PICO National Network, North Carolina United Power and others are marshaling their resources with plans for a series of protests and Capitol Hill lobbying this spring.

Their goal, they say, is to hold big banks accountable and to get them to stop fighting Dodd’s financial regulatory reform package.

“Folks are really frustrated,” said George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action.

The NPA and others are harnessing that frustration with several protests in April focused on shareholder meetings at big banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

“There are a set of mobilizations being planned for this spring where workers, family farmers, retirees, students and people from all walks of life are going to hold banks accountable,” Goehl said.

The first series is being built around tax day on April 15. Jobs With Justice is holding protests in 26 cities around the country.

That same day, PICO, a group of more than 1,000 faith-based organizations, has set up field meetings with Treasury Department officials so that “everyday people can go toe-to-toe with Treasury officials,” according to Goehl.

PICO is also helping organize a march in San Francisco on April 27 during Wells Fargo’s annual shareholder meeting that is expected to draw thousands, according to PICO’s the Rev. Mario Howell.

“We want to tell Wells Fargo the buck stops here,” Howell said.

A spokesman with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which represents large banking and financial institutions, declined comment for this article.

United for Power and a coalition of partners, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, churches and Latino and Native American coalitions, are planning a similar protest with about 400 delegates on April 28 in Charlotte, N.C., during Bank of America’s shareholder meeting.

Activists are also planning lobby days inside the Beltway and major protests in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

In addition to field work the group is doing in 17 states, Americans for Financial Reform is putting together a lobbying day on April 28, flying in people from across the country, AFR’s Lauren Weiner said.

AFL-CIO’s Dan Pedrotty said the group is leading an effort to create 11 million jobs, and the union is targeting the six largest banks “demanding they pay to replace the jobs they destroyed.”

The AFL-CIO has done 200 events in front of banks. Now the union federation is taking it to Wall Street with thousands of people expected to march in front of the New York Stock Exchange on April 29.

“Millions are out of work because Wall Street played Russian roulette with our future,” Pedrotty said.

The groups are also planning a massive march on K Street on May 17.

There will be more than just marching at the rally, according to Stephen Lerner of SEIU, who said there may be “gridlock” on K Street, a nod to how the groups view K Street’s role in trying to block regulatory reform.

“We are going to demand that Congress quit taking bribes from banks,” said Larry Ginter of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.