DETROIT - The growing movement to "bail out the people, not the banks" came a step closer to being reality during a rally this past Friday at the United States Social Forum (USSF). It was organized by the USSF Faith and Spirituality Committee.
Two issues were highlighted: the home foreclosure crisis and the unfair treatment of farm workers who work in the tobacco fields of North Carolina.
JP Morgan Chase bank gets its hands dirty in both. They hold many of the home loans being foreclosed on and Chase is one of the lead banks that have invested $498 million in Reynolds American, one of the largest tobacco companies in the U.S.
Newly elected United Auto Workers President Bob King told the rally farm workers at Reynolds are "living in third world conditions where they are not given proper wages; they are not given proper water."
He said these injustices will only stop when people of conscience say, "we are not gong to take it anymore; we are going to stand together."
King also spoke to the foreclosure crisis.
"Those banks are fully rewarded by the federal government. They get all the loans back. We have to stand up and fight because the banks are getting paid. They (the government) are guaranteeing their loans. Those families should be allowed to stay in their homes."
He asked, "how can we allow the same creators of the crisis six months later to get million dollar bonuses? How can we at the same time let people who every day of their life have lived with a great work ethic, have lived according to the rules, have gone to work every day, have supported their schools, yet were letting them lose their homes while the bankers are riding on their million dollar bonuses?"
Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), AFL-CIO, which represents workers in North Carolina spoke about the responsibility the bank has for the horrible conditions farm workers have to endure.
On this coming Labor Day he asked people to pledge to withdraw their money from Chase if they won't "sit down and negotiate an agreement." Velasquez said the campaign will be carried across the country.
"If they are going to use that money to exploit us, it doesn't make any sense. We are going to make it right by not allowing our money to be used against ourselves."
Rev. David Bullock, president of Rainbow PUSH Detroit said, "We live in a time when greed is taking over America. We are so beholden to money. We are bowing down to the almighty dollar. Somebody tell me: What happened to caring about children? What happened to caring about families? What happened to the American dream of home ownership?"
"We're not asking for anything Wall Street hasn't gotten," he said.
Those at the rally marched to the steps of Detroit's home office for Chase Bank. A delegation of four led by King and Velasquez demanded to meet with bank officials and were finally let in. Later they returned with Velasquez announcing that they had won the "first step to victory" in their call for a temporary moratorium on home foreclosures in Michigan: bank officials agreed to meet within two weeks.
Regarding farm workers in North Carolina, Velasquez said if there isn't progress by Labor Day in FLOC's campaign for improved conditions for Reynolds' tobacco workers, the campaign to withdraw money will be in full swing.
People are quickly taking notice of the new activism in the UAW. King said "wherever workers or people are standing up and fighting for justice the UAW is going to be there with you."
The union is off to an excellent start. A leader of the UAW told me "I've been on more UAW endorsed marches in the last week than in the last ten years."
Photo: John Rummel