Occupy the Boardroom: 9 Angry, Heart-Breaking Messages to Wall Street's Elites From the 99%
That photograph of well-heeled traders sipping champagne on a balcony high over Zuccotti Park as they look down on the Occupation below is already an iconic image, capturing the haughty detachment with which Big Finance has received this rapidly spreading expression of popular outrage.
The movement is now using a variety of strategies to take its message directly to the "1 percent” – to make sure they can't ignore the protests from the comfort of their sheltered enclaves. A new effort, Occupy the Boardroom, offers those whose economic security has been crushed by the recession a chance to send messages directly to a banking executive of their choice.
Ordinary people can post their letters to OccupyTheBoardroom.org, and activists promise to do whatever it takes to deliver them to the intended recipients. “Life gets awfully lonely for those at the top,” reads a tagline on the site. “What can we do to let them know someone's thinking of them? Maybe they need some new friends!”
The project is making Big Finance nervous. A memo drafted by Fay Feeney, a corporate board consultant, and leaked to occupiers in Washington, warns that “the anger, frustration and collective voice is too large to ignore... [Occupy the Boardroom] is personal and targeted to what you earn (along with power and influence) [and] banks are among the first businesses to be called out, occupied and disrupted.” Feeney goes on to urge "board members and corporate counsels [to] prepare themselves for a bumpy ride.”
The project is the brainchild of a coalition of groups loosely aligned with the Occupy movement. Greg Basta, deputy director of New York Communities for Change and a key organizer, told AlterNet that the idea, at first, was simply to give people an opportunity to “let the bankers know how Wall Street greed has affected their lives.” But as the Right has sought “to portray the occupy movement as a bunch of anarchists and troublemakers looking to shut down the government, I think the goal has changed,” says Basta. Now, it's about “making sure that the 1 percent, Congress and the media, finally understand who’s behind the Occupy movement – Americans, struggling because of the terrible, immoral and illegal decisions made by the top execs in the banking industry.”
Their stories are powerful, but anyone can post anything on the site. The organizers were kind enough to verify that the following are real messages written by real members of the “other 99 percent.” If you've wondered what this was all about, these notes should help clarify what's driving the growth of this peaceful rebellion.
1. My Daughter's Foreclosure
My daughter is a teacher who bought a home during the bubble and qualifies for a loan modification because her house is worth less than her mortgage. She has sent the paperwork no less than 17 times and Bank of America started foreclosure saying they never got it. After they took billions in bailout money they actually told her she should not have bought a house she could not afford! It has been almost four years since she started the loan mod process and Bank of America has done nothing. After my daughter got a lawyer they stopped the foreclosure but she has no idea whether she will be able to keep her house. Everyone knows Bank of America is incompetent but they are criminally incompetent. My daughter is one of millions of people waiting for loan mods and Bank of America refuses to comply with existing laws. I have heard the longer they wait, the more money they make. And there are people in jail for shoplifting!
2. My Father's Hands
Like you I’m from the Tar Heel state so I thought I’d tell you my story. A couple of years ago my father died waiting for a liver transplant. It was an ugly, horrible death and left me parentless while still in my 20s. My brother and I inherited the small ranch-style house my father worked his whole life to pay off. (Our mother died during our childhoods.) I wanted to take care of my father’s money so I invested it. Six months later I had lost over half of it when the crash happened. I lost half of my father’s life savings because of the corrupt practices of Wall Street. My father worked his whole life. He was the 11th child of a sharecropping family and was sent to the cotton fields before he was ten. He completed high school but there was no money for college so he went to work at blue-collar jobs which he used to support us his whole life.
When I think of the money I lost, I think of my father’s hands. I think of his broken, scarred hands that built a home and future for me. It wasn’t just money that Wall Street stole. Futures, trust, hard work and respect — those are the things Wall Street corruption has stolen from the American People, not just money. I don’t think everyone on Wall Street is corrupt, but the system is, and I want to do my part to correct it, even if it’s just writing a letter like this. I owe my father that. Mr. Bowles, I hope you do your part too. Because of your position, you are a powerful person in our society. So I ask you, how will you use your power? What will your legacy be?
3. We Can't Get Away From You!
My wife Amanda and I are doing our best to raise our 14-month-old daughter Sigourney. But you're making our job more difficult by pushing high-interest credit card debt and such. So, we've tried to move our money away from your institutions, but with limited success so far. You're everywhere! Our checking and savings are in a credit union and community bank, but our credit card? Chase Bank. We purchase a home through Ryland Mortgage and who ends up buying our debt from Ryland? Bank of America. Honestly, we can't get away from you! And with your negative impact on life around the world becoming more obvious every day, I think a large number of folks feel the same way we do. We want you to know what we experience every day. That's why our friends are occupying Wall Street on our behalf. You simply must hear us instead of overlooking us as undesirable "investment opportunities."
My hope is that Sigourney becomes an adult in a world where you simply don't exist, at least in the same form and scale you enjoy now. In our hearts and minds, Sigourney is simply "too big to fail." Can you hear us? Does our story of debt slavery make sense to you? Or, do we need to occupy another 1,000 cities before you stop your belligerent behavior?
4. We've Lost Hope
I am 55 years old, retired and on disability since 2000. I have aggressive rheumatoid arthritis. I have two prosthetic hips, two prosthetic knees, a prosthetic elbow, a C-spine fusion, two wrist fusions and two finger fusions. My husband is 75 years old. Between us, we get $36,000 in Social Security to live on. My out-of-pocket medical expenses alone are over $4,000 a year, and every year fewer and fewer doctors will participate in Medicare because of reduced reimbursements.
Washington is not hearing me and my husband. They are listening to the money that gets them elected; to the big corporations, to the big money on Wall Street.
America is becoming like feudal Europe, a land of lords and peasants. Can you not see where we are headed? Do you, in your heart, believe it is just and fair?
When you draw your last breath in this life, do you really want to think that you contributed to such a future?
You still have time to do the right thing.
Thank you for listening.
5. Small Business Owner: You Ruined My Family's Life
When the big recession started, my wife and I had just completed a successful run of 10 years of operating a motel. We had worked hard to prove ourselves, and our business had continued to improve as it had never been for decades.
Sure, we had to live below the poverty level to do that, but the future of our business came first. As had been our experience since being teenagers and buying our first cars, showing good payment history was all it took to obtain financing.
But of course, things changed because the banking industry ruined everything. There wasn't refinancing available for our balloon payment, and we lost everything to foreclosure.
Many area business were hurt by that foreclosure as suppliers lost good accounts. The ripple effect further damaged our local economy, and all of our weekly guests became homeless when we did.
Your industry did that, and it was because of greed. Plain and simple.
I hope you are enjoying your wealth. We aim to take it away from you and your industry.
6. Another Daughter's Foreclosure
My daughter (with my son's help) purchased a house five years ago in North Las Vegas, Nevada. My daughter's home loan was for $280,000. After the housing fiasco, her house was worth less than $90,000. She tried, unsuccessfully, to renegotiate the loan with Bank of America. The company representative told her that the bank would not renegotiate the loan. Instead he told her to get a second job to help her pay the mortgage of over $2,000 per month. The house went into foreclosure, my son and daughter lost all the money they had invested in the home, and my daughter, her new husband and baby are living in a small apartment in Las Vegas. She is an elementary school teacher with a masters in education whose salary and benefits have been cut by the governor of Nevada significantly. Her husband is currently unemployed.
My house that I purchased in Ontario, California, seven years ago for $454,000 with a down payment of $190,000, is now worth $300,000. I can't refinance because I don't receive enough money each month. I am a retired schoolteacher who receives $24,000 per year. My mortgage payments are $24,000 per year. My son, who lives with me, is now unemployed.
The foreclosure mess is all YOUR fault! The lack of jobs is all YOUR fault! You and the large corporations are out to destroy this country with your greed!! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP IMMEDIATELY!
You need to be held responsible for your decisions; the consequences should be severe! Every one of the CEOs should be made to give his/her bonuses received during the years since 2008 to a fund to help those of us on Main Street; you should be fired from your position with no ability to work in the banking/investment industry again; you should have to appear in court for your criminal activities and should have to serve time as do all the other thieves in our country! You have robbed the middle class of their homes, their retirement accounts, and their jobs and YOU SHOULD BE MADE TO PAY!!!
7. Tax Breaks Aren't For Offshoring Jobs
From July 1, 2008 until May 18, 2010, I worked for JPMorgan Chase. I was hired through a temp service to do internal IT support over the phone. When hired I was told that if I kept my statistics (first call resolution, and call times) down that I would eventually be hired as an actual employee of Chase. Despite my statistics consistently being in the top 10 of all of the employees in my department, not just the other temps, after two years I was not only not hired, but I was laid off. However during that two years other temps with stats much worse than mine were hired. My reason for not being hired was never explained to me. It could have been the fact that I am in a wheelchair and Chase didn’t want a disabled woman bringing up their insurance rates, or perhaps it is because I am a lesbian and other than myself there was one other homosexual in the department who was actually an employee, but was also laid off at the same time as me.
The whole come work for us and we will eventually give you a great job with awesome benefits was just a scheme. In 2008 Chase received a State tax credit from Ohio and in return they were to create 1200 new jobs within the state. So what did they do? They hired a bunch of temporary employees, got their tax credit, and kept the temporary employees on staff long enough to not only not lose their tax credit, but to also set up their call center in the Philippines. Then two years later they laid off hundreds of people causing the state to lose more jobs than they had gained during that two year period. Other internal IT departments were outsourced to Mexico and the credit card fraud department was exported to India. Though you surely know all of this.
So through a loophole in the system your company caused more people in our state to be unemployed and still took taxpayer money to stuff your own pockets with under the guise of being a company creating more jobs.
8. Rigged Mortgage Mod
There is no such thing as a hardship although it’s required for a modification. I had shoulder surgeries on both shoulders that kept me from working for an entire year. Did I get help? No! In fact during the process I was closed out twice. The modification specialist knew that I’d either go into foreclosure or finally heal. They just had to hold up the process long enough for one or the other to happen. Luckily the latter happened and I’m back at work. I had enough income to do a modification -- she just stopped asking for information. Then after a month of not returning my phone calls she calls and says the information is old and I'll have to close and start all over. She said to send things in when I have two paycheck stubs. Now I have two paycheck stubs but I probably earn too much now for a modification. I wasted a whole year trying, but at least you didn’t get my house. Mine was a legitimate hardship and should have been acted on. The banks suck and I’m going to occupy Wall Street.
-Vern D. Sailand
9. Enough Wall Street Greed
I am a retired aerospace worker, living on Social Security and a modest pension. The actions of major corporate bankers peddling their toxic waste securities, has brought down not only our U.S. financial system, but also major European banks. To date I have lost two immediate neighbors, who lost their homes, and two of our three grown children require my help to survive in the economic wasteland your greed has created. Under some social systems, you should by this time have committed hara-kiri because of your shame.
Oh, I forgot, you people have no shame.
Austin Guest, online organizer for ALIGN, a community group, and another organizer behind the project, told AlterNet that Occupy the Boardroom is getting a big response. “Yesterday, we sent hundreds of emails to 121 top bank CEOs, executives and board members, and we know for sure that many, including Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, have opened the emails,” he said. “We’re going to email them a set number, 99, every day as the campaign goes on.”
He added: “We’ve already collected 6,000 stories from 147 different countries, and hundreds coming by the hour, so we will be delivering these emails at bank headquarters and other locations in person throughout the country. We’re gonna have some fun with the delivery process, so stay tuned.”