The Communication Workers of America (CWA) has launched a campaign to restore economic and political democracy in the United States.
“We see our democracy being drowned by the unchecked mega-contributions of Wall Street banksters and hedge fund moguls,” said Chris Shelton, CWA president on a nationwide teleconference with thousands of CWA members.
The concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1 percent, said Shelton has tipped the balance power in their favor, and the result is a number of bad policy decisions that have enriched the few at the expense of many, said Shelton.
Shelton described some of the problems that the new concentration of wealth has caused:
Taxpayers were forced to bail out the too-big-to-fail banks in 2008 when their wild speculation crashed the world economy.
The wealth of the 1 percent has “grown obscenely” while everyone else’s wages have stagnated.
Congress last year passed fast track authority for the job-killing Trans Pacific Partnership.
“Enough is enough,” said Shelton. “It’s time to take on Wall Street. Its time to rebuild an America that works for working people, not just the 1 percent. It’s time to build a mass movement to take on the banks. That’s why CWA is launching our Take on Wall Street Campaign.”
The campaign has four immediate goals:
1. Break up the big banks so taxpayers don’t have to bail out banks that have grown too big to fail.
In the 1990’s, the government broke down the barrier between retail and commercial banking, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren who spoke to CWA members during the conference call. As a result, Wall Street banks were able to use the bank accounts of every day Americans to speculate on the economy, which led to the financial crash in 2008.
“The banks got rescued,” said former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who also spoke during the teleconference. “But the ensuing recession cost millions of workers their jobs, their homes, and their savings.”
That can’t be allowed to happen again, said Warren. We need legislation that breaks up the big banks, ensures that they can’t use government insured funds for speculation, and prevents banks from cheating people.
2. Tax Wall Street speculation.
“A 0.5 percent tax on Wall Street trades could generate as much as $130 billion a year,” said Shane Larson, CWA’s national legislative director. “That’s enough to fund Bernie Sanders’ free higher education proposal and there would be enough left over to build schools, improve health care, and fix our deteriorating highways, bridges, sewer systems, and water works, which would create thousands of good paying jobs.”
3. Get money out of politics.
Corporations and the super rich have taken control of the political process by making huge campaign contributions, said Shelton. We need legislation that limits the amount of money that corporations and individuals can contribute to political campaigns.
4. Make fund managers pay their fair share of taxes.
The tax code is stacked against working people, said Sen. Warren. Hedge fund managers get more than a 50 percent discount on their income taxes. Their income should be taxed at the same rate as working people.
Also, there are too many loopholes in the tax code that allow the rich to avoid paying taxes.
“The carried interest loophole alone allowed 25 people to avoid paying taxes on $11.6 billion of their income,” said Sen. Warren.
CWA plans to build a broad coalition around this agenda. In the next few weeks, CWA will announce the organizations that have agreed to take part in the Take on Wall Street Campaign.
CWA will also conduct an information campaign directed at CWA members. The union will hold train the trainer workshops to teach union leaders and activists about the campaign. Leaders and activists will then return to their locals to give this information to members.
Shelton said that it’s important for CWA to take on Wall Street because every time the union sits down with an employer, the banks are either directly or indirectly at the table on the side of the companies.
Verizon is a good example.
Verizon has a close relationship with Wall Street banks.
Two banks, Bank of America and Bank of New York Mellon Corporation are among the ten largest institutional shareholders in Verizon.
JP Morgan Asset Management, a division of JP Morgan Chase, is also a big institutional shareholder in Verizon.
JP Morgan Chase and Verizon have a long, symbiotic relationship.
When Verizon in 2013 bought out its partner Vodaphone, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley provided a $60 billion bridge loan that made the deal possible.
JP Morgan also was one of the Wall Street underwriters of bonds that financed the buyout.
The bond sale generated tens of millions of dollars in fees for JP Morgan and other Wall Street banks.
Wall Street has supported–some might say encouraged–Verizon’s divestment in its traditional wireline services.
This divestment has led to a decline in wireline services and to Verizon’s hard line against its union workers at the bargaining table.
Even though Verizon is an immensely profitable company, it is still demanding concessions from its union workers, the vast majority of whom work in its wireline division.
It’s going to take a mass movement to reduce the power of Wall Street, said Shelton.
“One thing that members can do right away to get this movement off the ground is to support, Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign for President,” said Shelton. “Bernie has made curbing Wall Street’s power one of his main issues.”
“Wall Street has destroyed our economy,” said Larson. But we can rebuild it by engaging our fellow union members in the fight to take on Wall Street.