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Thousands March in 3-Day Showdown with Banking Industry

Tired of bailouts and fat paychecks for those that created the economic catastrophe, marchers made clear demands to tame an out-of-control financial system.

Workers gave pink slips to the country's top bankers Tuesday morning to culminate three days of protests, billed as the Showdown in Chicago, during the American Bankers' Association's annual meeting.

Bbefore a jeering and cheering crowd of 5,000 union members and activists, Armando Robles, president of UE Local 1110 and a leader of the Republic Windows factory occupation last year, attached big, fluorescent pink slips to larger-than-life cutouts of retiring Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and JP Morgan Chase CEO James Dimon.

The three CEOs were probably among the bank officials meeting in the Sheraton behind the stage that featured speeches by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Change to Win Chairwoman Anna Burger, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and workers and community leaders.

After "firing" the bank CEOs, Adam Kader of the workers group Arise Chicago presented a notice that the banks' $17.8 trillion "loan" in taxpayer-bailout funds is due since, he said, banks have not complied with the conditions placed on the handout by the people.

Tuesday's march and rally, like the previous two days of protest, featured individual stories of families and communities impacted by foreclosures, high interest rates and frozen credit markets sparked by the economic crisis and unrelieved by the various bank bailouts.

Along with decrying the financial deregulation that facilitated the economic crisis and the "corporate greed" exhibited in exorbitant bonuses and salaries for industry executives even after the bailout, protesters made several concrete demands.

They want a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), as proposed by the Obama administration, which would cover bank and non-bank financial services. They want financial industry regulation -- especially of the "shadow markets" largely blamed for causing the economic crisis -- and limits on executive compensation.

They want a moratorium on foreclosures and the loosening of credit at low interest rates to help pay student loans, let people stay in their homes and protect small businesses and the jobs they offer. And they want banks to extend credit and lower interest rates to help ease the crunches in state budgets that have led to social programs being slashed and jobs gutted nationwide.

On Monday, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairwoman Sheila Bair addressed protesters and voiced support for the CFPA.

"I strongly support this agency, yes I do; we need it," she said. "Looking at indecipherable credit card statements and documents and mortgages you can't understand and APRs and payday loans and high overdraft fees, I don't see how anybody can say we've done a good job of protecting consumers of financial services … we need this new agency.

"The absence of a national standard was a contributing factor to our current economic turmoil," she said and promised the CFPA would for the first time examine the non-bank "shadow sector" of the financial services industry. She also called for doing away with the "too-big-to-fail doctrine," saying "no more bailouts, no more bailouts."

The ABA's Web site says that since the fall of 2008 it has also supported stepped-up financial regulation, including the regulation of non-banks, the revision of "too-big-to-fail" policies and the development of a systemic risk regulator. But regardless of its promises for the future, protesters said the banking industry needs to take action now to help solve the problems they have created.

Child care provider Angenita Tanner told the crowd how she's in danger of losing her business and her livelihood, and her clients losing their child care, because of state budget cuts endangering the subsidized program.

"Families have asked me to barter, and now they pay me in food instead of money," she said.

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