March 31 Noon Rallies at Bank of America: 'Jobs Now!'

On March 31 at noon, union activists around the Valley will hold rallies asking people to boycott Bank of America. They say the bank has done little to reduce the state’s unemployment rate despite receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer money last year. The bank paid its CEO in 2008 some $9.9 million.

According to Jon Weissman, spokesman for Jobs with Justice www.jwj.org the activists will be at Bank of America branches in: Springfield at the corner of Main Street and Boland Way; Northampton at 144 Main Street; Amherst at 1 South Pleasant Street; and Greenfield at 208 Federal Street.

The public is welcome to attend the rallies, he said.

The activists are asking people to close their accounts at corporate banks, and open accounts at democratically run credit unions like the Holyoke Credit Union www.holyokecu.com

A list of the dozens of credit unions in Massachusetts, with links to their web sites, is at www.CreditUnionsOnline.com

About 15 million Americans are members of labor unions.

Union workers in the U.S. make more money than nonunion workers, 30 percent more. That’s about $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union.

Unions aren’t just about money; having a union means companies must have "just cause" for firing a worker. Companies don’t have to give a reason for firing a nonunion worker.

While workers are discussing forming a union, a quarter of employers illegally fire union supporters; more than half threaten to shut down and lay off all their workers; and three-quarters hire anti-union law firms to fight their workers. That’s according to research by Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner.

The labor movement’s critics say many union leaders are corrupt, and their members are selfish and greedy. But so are leaders of companies like Goldman Sachs and AIG; at least union members can vote their leaders out of office. As for being greedy and selfish, unions have spent millions of dollars of their members’ money lobbying for increases in the minimum wage, which helps all workers, union and nonunion alike.

The argument about greed and selfishness cuts two ways. The richest 1 percent of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 95 percent of us combined. Almost 20 percent of Americans have a net worth of zero or less. (That’s not including mortgages—if you include mortgages, the percentage of Americans in debt is much higher.)

That’s about wealth. Here’s a stat for income. In 1980, more than 20 percent of the private sector workforce in the U.S. belonged to unions. At that time, the ratio of average large-company CEO pay to worker pay was 42 to 1. By 2000, only 8 percent of private sector workers belonged to a union, and the ratio of average large-company CEO pay to worker pay was 525 to 1. In 2005, the average large-company CEO made $12 million. The average worker made $27,460.

In Europe, where a far higher percentage of workers belong to unions, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay is about 25 to 1.

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