Wells Fargo guilty of crimes against workers, rally charges

“Wells Fargo is a criminal offender in the banking community,” said Susan Hurley, executive director with Chicago Jobs With Justice, the group that organized the action.

Hurley said the bank received $25 billion in federal bailout funds from taxpayers, yet they continue to give out multi-million dollar bonuses to their executives.

Nearly a year since Congress authorized hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the financial industry, major banks like Wells Fargo are selling out working people by closing small businesses and forcing layoffs and home foreclosures, said Hurley.

According to Hurley the bank has foreclosed on 4,000 homes in the Chicago area alone. They also spend millions lobbying against the interests of working people, she added.

The logic to give banks money was to save our economy, even though we all know they engineered the crisis to begin with, said Hurley. “Instead they have kept the money for themselves and that’s not okay with us,” she said.

Hurley hopes Congress gets serious about re-regulating the current financial mess and pass stronger legislation that protects workers, consumers, and homeowners.

“We want Wells Fargo to keep people in their homes and to put those foreclosed homes back into the hands of the community,” she said. “So we are here today to take a stand for an economic recovery that supports working people not just the wealthy.”

Speakers at the rally also demanded that Wells Fargo pay money owed to union workers at the Quad Cities Die Casting company in Moline, Ill. The bank decided to liquidate and close the company recently leaving the workers jobless and devastating the town.

“I think it’s terrible what Wells Fargo did to my brothers and sisters,” said Deb Johann, leader with United Electrical Local 1174 and former Quad City worker. “They took $25 billion from taxpayers to save their skins, but when it comes to thousands of dollars in pay and benefits we have worked hard for, the bank is delinquent in payment,” she said. “We made millions this summer working hard at Quad City and now Wells Fargo is stepping in to take that money and stiff us on what we earned.”

What Wells Fargo has done is unfair and the money they spent on bonuses for their executives could be better utilized for people losing their jobs and their homes, critics say. And it’s not right how Wells Fargo has a history of taking advantage of homeowners, especially minorities, setting them up to fail in bad predatory lending practices, they add.

Many at the rally represented different struggles having to do with Wells Fargo’s bad policies including Susan Aarup, an activist with Access Living, a group that advocates for people with disabilities. Aarup, who uses a wheel chair, said she worked for the city for 12 years before being laid off.

Aurup said finding a new job these days is tough. But what’s more upsetting is how Wells Fargo discriminates against hiring people like her, she said.

“The disabled community has a 70 percent unemployment rate in Chicago,” said Aarup. “I’m demanding that Wells Fargo employ people with disabilities to fix this problem,” she said.

Many religious leaders were also present including Rev. Robin Hood with Clergy Committed to Community. “What Wells Fargo is doing to workers and homeowners is immoral and appalling and they should be held accountable for their criminal actions,” he said. “They’re predatory lenders and criminal offenders.”

Rev. Calvin Morris with the Community Renewal Society said at the end of it all it’s workers who are the people that produce the wealth in this country and financial institutions like Wells Fargo should support them in their right to join unions.

“We are not afraid,” said Morris. “And we are demanding our fair share especially when it comes to economic justice,” he said. “We will not be silent because our power is resident in the people and we the workers are that people.”

During the rally organizers of the action enacted a mini-skit called, “A People’s Trial of Wells Fargo” about how the bank employs bad practices toward working people. The trial in the skit found the bank and it’s chairman Richard Kovacevich guilty of criminal charges.

At the end of the rally activists chanted, “Wells Fargo, we’ll be back! And that’s a fact!”