Picketers tell Bank of America, We want free choice

CHICAGO — Labor activists and Logan Square residents picketed the local branch of Bank of America, April 4, to draw attention to the bank’s brazen campaign to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Chanting “Shame on Bank of America,” picketers circled in front of the branch and gathered signatures in support of the bill, including from many bank customers.

‘Two days after they got a $25 billion bailout from the Federal government, Bank of America convened a conference call with AIG, McDonalds, Home Depot, and other big corporations to discuss how to defeat EFCA,’ Leah Raffanti, of Chicago Jobs with Justice, told picketers and pedestrians. ‘We are here to tell Bank of America to stop interfering with legislation that will help working families.’

Bank of America already carries a lousy reputation in Chicago, especially after the role they played in the shut down of Republic Windows and Doors. As chief creditor they refused to extend a $5 million line of credit a couple of weeks after the bank got its bailout.

‘I’m glad you’re here,’ one bank customer told the picketers. ‘You’re speaking the truth. Bank of America created the financial crisis with their greed. And now they want us to pay double for it.’ Lots of cars and trucks driving by honked in support.

Among the picketers was Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. ‘They say passing EFCA will be the end of civilization. They say it’s undemocratic. But EFCA is the ultimate in democracy,” he said. ‘You can’t stand by yourself against Bank of America. Only when working people stick together can we win.’

Lance Cohn, a retired Chicago teacher said passage of EFCA was essential for economic recovery. ‘Unionized workers make 30 percent more than non-unionized workers,” he said.

‘The last 30 years the corporations and rich have had it their way and accumulated staggering wealth while working people have taken in on the chin. EFCA will help re-balance things,’ he said. Cohn is part of the campaign to organize teachers at Chicago charter schools.

Also in the line was Charles Gilyard, president of USWA Local 2154. Gilyard said EFCA is one of the laws needed to strengthen organized labor’s ability to not only win better pay and benefits but to protect its members from being fired for union activities.

‘I have seen companies ruining the lives of workers. One of our union brothers was fired for being a union activist. He’s been off a year as he fights his way through the courts. He may win his job back, but he’s already lost his home and his wife. His life is ruined.’

Gilyard also said a major cause of the violence claiming the lives of scores of African American and Latino young people in Chicago is the massive joblessness and bleak economic future. He said creating union wage jobs would be a big factor in ending the violence.

Protesters joined the picket line from the Logan Square Neighbors for Justice and Peace, Organizing for America, the South Austin Coalition Community Council, the Logan Square-Humboldt Park Communist Party club and Coalition of Labor Union Women, and vowed to stick together until the battle is won.