BOSTON/Financial District - Members of local labor unions, labor justice and housing justice groups, SEIU and AFL-CIO spokespersons rallied today outside Bank of America's building on Federal Street as part of a national campaign to demand the company cease its attempts to defeat the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and use Troubled Assets Relief Program funds to help Americans.
Among the approximately 65 people who rallied outside Bank of America's building today in 15° weather were members from SEIU Locals 615, 509, 1199 and the SEIU Massachusetts State Council, AFL-CIO and its affiliates, Jobs with Justice, Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice, and City Life. Protesters held a banner which read, "It's time our economy worked for everyone: support Employee Free Choice" and signs depicting piles of money and corporate jets while they chanted, "Banks get bailed out, people get thrown out!" and "Bank of America, you can't hide! We can see your greedy side!"
According to an action alert about today's rally sent through state and local listservs, Bank of America has joined other employers such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and McDonald's in trying to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act. Harris Gruman, Massachusetts Political Director for the State Council of SEIU in Massachusetts, said Employee Free Choice, health care reform and a stimulus package for working Americans are all necessary for economic recovery. Gruman said Bank of America is not using TARP money to benefit working people and communities. "They're exhibiting all this corporate greed. They're not helping people facing foreclosures, not helping workers have a better life, they're not loaning money, even, to other business. They're sending the money overseas. It's not part of what we need for a real recovery here."
Gruman identified new opportunities for labor reform within the incoming Obama administration, but said there are parties that have a vested interest in maintaining old leadership. "We have a new president, we have a new congress. We have a real opportunity for what we're calling 'change that works.' Bank of America is a classic example of an enemy of change. They want the same old, same old that got us into this economic jam we're in now, which is speculative money chasing money."
Gruman, SEIU Local 509 officer Stephen Lewis and SEIU International representative Bill Ragen entered the Bank of America Building to deliver a $25 billion check from the American taxpayer with a "stop payment" stamp on it to Bank of America management, but were directed to leave by police who were standing by at the rally.
Bank of America did not comment on the rally, but a spokesperson for the company responded to Gruman's charges that Bank of America is not helping people facing foreclosure, saying, "We've restructured almost 200,000 mortgages in the first 9 months of 2008. Bank of America is updating those numbers and will disclose more in its earnings report, which will be released January 20, 2009."
Labor groups plan to hold weekly vigils each Thursday on the same spot to continue calling attention to Bank of America's labor practices.