News & Politics

99% Power Movement Kicks Off With Massive Actions at Wells Fargo Shareholder Meeting

2012 will be different than last spring, and the spring before it. This year, there’s a nationally coordinated effort of the 99% to fight back.

 Every major bank holds its shareholder meeting in the spring, makingtheir nefarious plans about how to invest the billions they have stolen from us: ranging from mineral extraction in the global south to foreclosures in East Oakland.

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But 2012 will be different than last spring, and the spring before it.  This year, there’s a nationally coordinated effort of the 99% to fight back.  We may not have the money for our own strategy meetings in fancy boardrooms, but we have something much better: people power — the millions of people who are fighting to save their homes, struggling to pay their bills,trying to get out from under their student loans, are ready to take action to make things better. 

We’re starting off with Wells Fargo.

A recent Forbes cover story called Wells Fargo “The bank that works.” Which begs the question: Who does Wells Fargo work for? 

In the last year before the subprime bubble burst, Wells Fargo issued $74.2 billion worth of subprime loans, contributing to the current foreclosure crisis. In spite of its role in helping to crash the economy, Wells Fargo was rewarded with a $43 billion bank bailout from the federal government.  To thank the taxpayers that funded this, the company commenced slashing 6,000 jobs over the following 4 years while foreclosing on $17.5 billion worth of homeloans that it owns. 

The taxpayers who bailed out the banks got sold out by Wells Fargo.

The result has been an increased economic burden for working people: more foreclosures, depressed wages, fewer jobs, and a deteriorating quality of life.  With all the damage done to the economy and the American people, there were no consequences for the executives at WellsFargo like CEO John Stumpf,  who in 2011, earned a whopping salary of $17.9 million, according to The Washington Post. This number included a raise of $300,000, more than most people make in 5 years. Worse yet, he received a 2011 tax cut of more than $1 million.

At Causa Justa :: Just Cause, we have been targeting Wells Fargo andprotesting their shareholder meetings for more than three years in a campaign to win a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, divestment from private prisons and immigrant detention, and an end to predatory lending. 

We’ve also been pressuring the cities of Oakland and San Francisco to divest from Wells Fargo and instead create municipal banks by and for the people who live in the city. 

This work took on a new life and a new shape at the end of last year, when we worked in groundbreaking collaborations with Occupy SF & OccupyOakland activists, with unions, and with grassroots organizations, giving Wells Fargo a taste of what it will look like when the 99% act as one.  Their headquarters were shut down by civildisobedience half a dozen times, taxpayers sued them, and even their own employees whispered complaints about family members in foreclosure.

2012 will bring a new level of pressure onto Wells Fargo.  The momentum that has been building for years in directly impacted communities, like the Black and Latino families that lead Causa Justa :: Just Cause, is spreading far and wide. The hope that a politician will make change for us has fallen away, and in its place, there is a new narrative of change:  that the people themselves, the 99%, will take history into our own hands, and shape a better future.

Join with hundreds of thousands of like-minded people across the country and turn out for a 99% Power direct action. This spring, starting with Wells Fargo’s shareholder meeting in San Francisco on April 24, hundreds of thousands of people have united to build an economy and democracy that works for all of us, not just John Stumpf and the one percenters. 

We are diverse, but united in our demands:

·       Wells Fargo and other big corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Too many of the nation’s biggest corporations actually make money at tax time.  One hundred of the Fortune 500’s most profitable companies got average tax refunds of two percent. 

·       Corporations like Wells Fargo should start funding the future, not fossil fuels, payday lending and private prisons. Wells Fargo is a major funder of the payday loan industry that preys on cash-strapped working families. It provides credit to six of the seven largest publicly traded payday lenders in the country which finance nearly a third of the payday lending industry.

·       Like a lot of corporations, Wells Fargo laid off workers and hid profits overseas while rewarding CEOs like John Stumpf excessively. Despite taking taxpayer bailout money and making record profits, Wells Fargo slashed 6,385 jobs while the top five execs raked in almost $50 million in one year. They could use some of their historically high levels of cash reserves to finance job creation and get Americans working again.

We are tired of negotiations that produce nothing, tired of “being heard” by CEOs, while they continue to ravage our communities. This year, the 99% will hold a stakeholders meeting, and not allow the shareholders to meet at all. This year, the SF Bay Area will mobilize in coordination with cities across the country, for a whole spring season of mobilization and direct action.  This year, we will make history.

Executive Director of Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Maria Poblet has worked more than a decade in community organizing for racial and economic justice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a coordinator of the social movement in the US, including the US Social Forum and the Grassroots GlobalJustice Alliance.