Labor and allies discuss launching a “Take Down Wall Street” campaign

WASHINGTON – A giant coalition of unions, progressive groups and grass-roots organizations is discussing the launching of a “Take Down Wall Street” campaign.

In meetings at the AFL-CIO and elsewhere over the last few months, members have been hashing out the mechanics of the drive and its platform, Sarah Anderson, director of global economics for the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, said during a May 17 seminar here on income inequality.

Communications Workers President Larry Shelton previously forecast the campaign would start this year, but he had given no details about when and where it would begin. He’s been one of the union movement’s leading voices in calling for curbing the clout of Wall Street, reining in its power and excesses, its financial finagling and fraud and its leading role in creating the Great Recession – which hurt everyone else.

Besides major unions, grassroots groups such as the National Domestic Workers Alliance and People’s Action will be part of the campaign. Its four goals are:

  • A financial transactions tax to curb the rampant trading that the financiers use to make enormous profits and take home – in the case of 25 top hedge fund managers – almost $1 billion yearly each in pay, compensation and options. Anderson dubbed it “a financial speculation tax.”
  • A tax on excessive CEO pay. The AFL-CIO is also pushing such a tax. Its annual executive paywatch study, released the same day, showed the median CEO earned as much in a day (335 times) as the median worker earned in a year (see executive paywatch story).
  • A campaign to break up the big banks. Federal data show the five largest U.S. banks now hold more than half of all U.S. bank assets – a higher proportion than their share before the crash.
  • Creating alternatives to those banks, especially for the 29 percent of the U.S., mostly in rural areas and inner cities, without access to branch banking. Consumers in those areas are often stuck with extortionate payday lenders. The leading alternative, pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., and part of his Democratic presidential campaign platform, is to get the U.S. Postal Service back into the banking business, which it left in 1966.

The platform should be immensely popular, speakers at the IPS session added, as opinion polls show huge resentment of Wall Street’s role in the crash – and the federal bailout which saved those banks. “There’s a lot of resentment out there,” one speaker said.

Photo: Kathy Willens/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.