We're Taking on Wall Street

About 10,000 CWAers and allied partners joined CWA's telephone town hall call on Feb. 2, and listened as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and CWA President Chris Shelton talked about how activists can take on Wall Street and the "too big to fail" banks.

The call kicked off CWA's national campaign, "Take on Wall Street." Listen to the call here. CWA, other unions, environmental and community allies and others together will be taking on Wall Street in a major member mobilization.

Shelton said that across the board, people, whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents, are fed up with Wall Street's overwhelming power in our nation's economy and politics. "We've seen the 1 percent grow obscenely wealthy while everyone else's wages stagnate. We've seen the corporate push for job-killing trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and coordinated attacks on public and private sector workers from the Supreme Court to statehouses and every place in between. We see our democracy being drowned by the unchecked mega-contributions of the Wall Street "banksters" and hedge fund moguls. Behind all of these developments is the out-of-control power of Wall Street and the big banks," he said.

Warren, who Shelton described as "Wall Street's worst nightmare, has fought to safeguard working families from big banks, predatory lenders, insurance companies, payday lenders and others financial schemers. Following the 2008 Wall Street crash, she pushed for creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which so far has forced banks and credit card companies to return $11 billion to consumers.

Warren noted that after the Great Depression in 1929, "government put a cop on Wall Street, by creating the Securities and Exchange Commission. It made it safe for ordinary people to put their money in the bank, by creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). It separated 'boring' banking from high-flying, risky investment banking by enacting the Glass-Steagall Act in 1933," changes that worked for more half a century, she said.

But in the 1980s, the political winds changed. Regulators looked the other way, financial institutions found new ways to trick people, on credit cards, loans and other products, and the wall between 'boring' banking and risky investment banking came down, allowing bankers to use FDIC-insured deposits by ordinary people for outrageous investment schemes, Warren said.

She outlined five changes that will make a real difference in stopping banks and financial institutions from cheating working Americans and improve our financial markets:

  • Create a 21st century Glass-Steagall Act, so that banks can't use ordinary commercial deposits for their risky schemes.
  • Enact a Wall Street speculation tax.
  • Close the tax loopholes on executive compensation.
  • Close the carried interest loophole to make hedge fund managers pay their fair share.
  • Establish postal banking so that working families won't continue to be exploited by payday lenders and others. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted that in 1990, the five biggest Wall Street banks had 10 percent of all banking assets. Today, the top five banks control 45 percent of all banking assets.

"The relationship between wealth and power has become all too apparent. The more wealth that goes to the big banks, the more power they have to rig the game in their favor," he said. "That's why we need the countervailing power of CWA to take on the big banks. It will be a long fight, and not easy, but we can do it," he said.

CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson said CWA's main focus will be on the Wall Street speculation tax, closing the carried interest loophole that's been a giveaway to hedge fund managers and enacting a new Glass-Steagall Act to stop bankers from using ordinary, commercial deposits for their risky investment schemes.

This year, CWA will train at least 900 members in one-day workshops, and with allies we will fight back. Training already has been held in the Northeast, another session is scheduled for Austin, Tex., in April. You can take action right now.