Unions push Congress to curb banks, restore Glass-Steagall

Unions and progressive groups are circulating a petition to congressional leaders, demanding they control the nation’s banks by restoring the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that erected a wall between financial finagling and regular consumer banking.

The petition, formulated by the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, the Economic Policy Institute, Jobs With Justice, Americans for Financial Reform and their allies, declares “Wall Street greed and risky behavior is out of control and needs to be reined in.

“There is a simple solution: Pass the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act,” it says.

In 1999, a Republican-run Congress passed and Democratic President Bill Clinton signed Glass-Steagall repeal. That, combined with lax or nonexistent regulation under the succeeding GOP Bush government, let the financiers run amok, using depositors’ money. Their finagling and fraud helped lead to the Great Recession, also called the Bush Crash.

The petition notes that restoring Glass-Steagall is one of the few issues the 2016 Republican and Democratic platforms agree upon. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have introduced legislation to restore Glass-Steagall.

“We demand that you listen to working people and your own party and allow a vote on the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act after the election,” the petition says.

But Republican targets of the petition – which will go to top leaders and committee chairs of both parties – oppose doing so. Indeed, several of them want to repeal the Dodd-Frank law, where Congress curbed the financiers following the onset of the Great Recession.

“We’ve joined with other progressive and labor organizations that are fighting to make banks smaller, simpler and safer,” Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in an e-mail urging her union’s members and allies to sign the petition.

“Banks shouldn’t be allowed to gamble with the savings of ordinary Americans, and they shouldn’t receive taxpayer backing for their risk-taking. Working people need a rule that separates our piggy banks-checking and savings accounts-from the casino of Wall Street.

“We had rules that protected us for 60 years,” Weingarten said of the old Glass-Steagall. “Now we need new, modern rules to prevent the Wall Street recklessness that led to the recession in the first place. Americans deserve nothing less,” she added.

Detroit Federation of Teachers executive vice president Terrence Martin backed her up. He said the banks’ casino gambling sucked his city in and “Wall Street helped drive us over a cliff” into bankruptcy “through predatory tricks and traps.” Detroit’s bankruptcy has led to huge pension cuts for city worker retirees and mass firings from the schools, among other impacts.

Photo: AP


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.