Thursday, March 19, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 19, 2009
Joanna Boron (716)903-7532
Kate Riehlman (315)382-6674
10,000 Take Part in Coast-to-Coast Protests at Major U.S. Banks Today Show Public Anger Over Bonuses, CEO, Corporate Excess; Call on Congress To Act on Employee Free Choice,Health Care, Banking Reform
Buffalo Residents, UB Students Demonstrate at Bank of America in Tonawanda as Part of 100 Actions Spanning 35 States
Buffalo, NY– In approximately 100 actions in 35 states today, some 10,000 Americans in communities large and small, urban and rural, took to the streets outside the offices and branches of major U.S. banks to demonstrate the growing public frustration with an economy weakened by years of corporate excess at the expense of broader prosperity.
Here in Western New York, working families and students demonstrated at Bank of America in Tonawanda (1188 Niagara Falls Blvd.) with signs that had a message aimed at the U.S. Congress: “It’s Time for an Economy that Works for Everyone.”
“Bank of America’s behavior both before and since the taxpayer bailout makes it a prime example of the kind of corporate excess that’s draining so much out of our families, our communities, and our economy,” said Joanna Boron, member of UB Students Against Sweatshops. “Top executives in these banks won’t rebuild our economy so it works for all of us. Congress needs to step in and do that through employee free choice, health care for all, and strong banking reform.”
Over the last two years, Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis has received $34.8 million in compensation, while the median wage for a teller at Bank of America hovers around the federal poverty line. Despite receiving $45 billion in federal taxpayer bailout funds since last fall, Bank of America has announced plans to lay off 30,000 to 35,000 workers, awarded $5.2 million in corporate bonuses (including Bank of America-owned Merrill Lynch), maintains a fleet of aircraft worth $360-$400 million, and continues to charge consumers some of the highest service fees in the industry. The bank also continues to make taxpayers pick up the tab for about $50 million a year in employee health care costs because many Bank of America workers cannot afford the company’s health insurance and must rely on public healthcare programs.
While taking billions from taxpayers, Bank of America lobbied last year against bills like the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights and the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 and plays a leadership role on the Financial Services Roundtable, a financial industry group that lobbied against the Employee Free Choice Act in every quarter of 2008. The measure would make it easier for workers to bargain with employers for better wages, benefits, and working conditions by ensuring they can exercise a free choice to join together in a union without management interference or intimidation.
“Americans have had enough of an era of unchecked corporate excess,” said Andy Stern, president of the 2-million member SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. “Congress needs to fix the underlying problems by ensuring workers can have a voice, health care, and a financial system that works for people, not lavish corporate lifestyles.”
The nationwide protests challenge Congress to take immediate steps to rebuild an economy that works for everyone by passing:
•The Employee Free Choice Act so workers have the freedom to form unions for a voice to share in the economic progress they help create.
•Affordable, quality health care for all where everyone, including big corporations, does their share and Americans no longer have to go without quality health care or face health costs that sink a family’s budget.
•Strong banking reform to make sure the financial services industry can never again bring our economy down by prioritizing huge profits and executive pay over responsible lending, or by preying on consumers, gambling with families’ hard-earned money, and hiding their dealings.
For more information on actions happening across the country, please visit www.TakeBackTheEconomy.org.