As 36,000 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators marched past the Verizon building near the Brooklyn Bridge Thursday evening, they saw giant projections on the wall of the skyscraper reading “It is the beginning of the beginning,” “We are unstoppable,” and simply “99%.”
These weren’t corporate slogans; these projections came from the Occupy organizers. They represented the spirit of the November 17 day of action against corporate greed.
The march was the culmination of a day that saw Occupy supporters attempt to shut down Wall Street trading earlier in the day. During acts of disobedience in the morning about 200 were arrested. In the afternoon, protestors regrouped to march to the Brooklyn Bridge. The march, according to BBC reports was swelled by union members as the got off from work.
One union member, expressed the frustration and anger that has led people like him to join the march. “I worked hard and played by the rules, but when (New York City) budget cuts hit last year I lost my job as an (Emergency Medical Technician) and now I’m about to lose my family’s home,” said Bronx resident Carlos Rivera. “I’m sitting down on the Brooklyn Bridge today because it’s not fair that our taxpayer dollars bailed out big banks like my mortgage holder, Bank of America, but they refuse home-saving loan modifications for struggling families like mine. It’s time banks and the super wealthy paid their fair share and Congress helped people get back to work.”
Rivera was joined on the march by members of the Communication Workers of America who work for Verizon, the 16th largest corporation in the US. Some of the CWA members walked all the way from Albany to protest Verizon’s greed.
Verizon like Bank of America has received government handouts, but Verizon’s handouts were in the form of tax loopholes and subsidies. According to a recent report by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Verizon exploited tax loopholes to receive a $951 million tax rebate in 2010. For a three-year period from 2008-2010, Verizon received more than $12 billion in federal tax subsidies and paid an effective federal income tax rate of -2.9 percent.
Verizon’s tax avoidance efforts extend to local and state governments. The report finds that Verizon received $180 million in local tax breaks and grants and another $1.4 billion state tax subsidies.
Some of this public money could have been used to improve education, repair and maintain roads and bridges, or prevent layoffs of public servants like Rivera.
During the last three years, Verizon has recorded $33.4 billion in pre-tax profits. Some of this wealth, which its workers helped create, could have been used to offer a fair contract to its union workers. Instead the company, is demanding a billion dollars worth of concessions in a new contract that would significantly reduce health care and pension benefits and lead to less job security. Verizon is demanding the concessions to make sure “that its top executives stay in the top 1 percent of American earners,” said George Kohl, CWA senior director.
Verizon isn’t the only company that avoids paying taxes. Another report from Citizens for Tax Justice says that 78 out the 280 of the US’s most profitable companies paid no federal income tax in at least one year of the past three.
This lack of fairness in US tax policy and the fact that many financial firms like Bank of America received bailouts even though their financial speculation caused the recession that continues to cause working-class misery has led another Occupy Wall Street union supporter to call for a financial transaction tax.
National Nurses United, whose members joined Occupy days of action across the US, is pressing for a small tax on Wall Street financial transactions, which economists estimate could raise up to $350 billion dollars that could be invested in public projects that put people back to work.
“There’s an economic emergency in every corner of our country. We need to put thousands to work repairing our crumbling infrastructure–bridges, roads and schools, said Malinda Markowitz, RN and co-president of the California Nurses Association/NNU. “We need to keep people in their homes. We need to fund our schools so they can provide quality education. We need to ensure that all people have access to quality affordable health care.”