Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Bank Transfer Day”

Creating Coalitions Pt. 2

Following on from Monday’s post, I have been summarizing Mark Bittman’s excellent article in the NYT. Mr. Bittman stresses the realization of “an oligarchy in this country, one that uses financial strength to gain political power, one that fights and bullies for its “right” to make money regardless of the consequences to the earth or anything on it.

Exxon will do all it can to prevent meaningful climate change legislation; Cargill and Pepsi will fight any improvement in agriculture or diet that threatens their profits; Bank of America would rather see homeowners go under than discuss changes in financial structures. And so on.”

Mass movements have begun to emerge as one method to break this ring of influence and the Occupy Bank Transfer Day is an outstanding example. To organize at both the personal and local level can have a resounding effect. 

The second focuses on voting. Very few Presidents, our present one might be an exception, initiate change. Again, Mr. Bittman: “Does anyone believe that Lyndon Johnson wanted to combat racism, or that Richard Nixon cared about American troops or Vietnamese citizens? No: they were forced, respectively, to support civil rights legislation and to begin ending the Vietnam War. Forced by masses of Americans marching, yelling, demonstrating, sitting in and more — Americans driven by their conscience, not by profits.”

This makes the organization and coordination of huge numbers of citizens absolutely critical. We need to identify politicians who are willing to shun corporate money and pressure in favor of reflecting the needs of their constituents. This is so much more difficult than taking several million dollars to support your campaign.

We can sit around and complain of the blatant undemocratic process of corporate sponsorship of politicians or we can focus on establishing a list of candidates that are true to their principles and will rely on mass support from the street. The alternative is to create our own big interest PACs, and this has its own scary elements to it.

A few weeks ago, I bemoaned the idea of ‘playing their game,’ but now I am not so sure that we can create a sustainable framework whereby politicians are elected and held accountable by their voters.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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Community Investing

I was proud to participate in Bank Transfer Day and I know I am not alone. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) announced that between the end of September and beginning of November, $4.5 billion dollars were deposited in new accounts in the credit unions.

650,000 people moved their money into credit unions during this time and as the late Senator Everett Dirksen said: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

There is a vital lesson here: we can control what we do with our money, and our money can have an effect when we band together. 99% of the population is a lot of people – over 300 million to be sure. This action remains for me the most exciting chapter in the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement and should stand as a model for how we can change the economic environment.

I want to share with you a user-friendly guide to community investing that has been put together by my friends over at the Progressive Jewish Alliance and the Jewish Funds for Social Justice.

I have not been moved to close more ports or participate in endless demonstrations. I have visited Occupy sites in the Bay Area, but not felt a part of what was happening. This is who I am, not a criticism of those participating. But actions such as Bank Transfer Day have been a very powerful experience. I am not sure how far the movement can go in an election year. We need to focus on ensuring that the candidates from the party that most represents our values.

They should receive 99% of our votes – a game changer.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Occupy Starbucks

I know I am going to get into trouble for this post. Most people reading Left Coast Voices are more likely to drink their daily sin under a Starbucked notice than the green mermaid (or whoever she is). Yes I have stuck up for Starbucks in the past, but I have also been critical where I believe it apt.

And yes,I know it is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, but a lot of the discussions around my family table were political and depressing. So let’s give a shout out for something positive, whoever is behind it.

Today, I want to highlight the positive. Many have commented on this blog that they want to see more concrete steps coming out of the Occupy Movement, steps that will impact the 1% or help the 99%. Bank Transfer Day was a great example (and its not too late!).

Starbucks have seeded money for a project called Create Jobs for USA. Starbucks have teamed up with Opportunity Finance Network® which is a group of community lending institutions who will help to finance jobs within the community. 

When we buy a wristband at Starbucks stores or online for a minimum of $5, these institutions will generate 7x the amount. In other words for every $5 we donate, $35 will be generated and invested in small business, affordable housing, commercial real estate, micro-enterprises, and non-profits.

Yes, those of us seriously Starbucked can find a way of being cynical, of showing how this is a sophisticated marketing move by the company. But right now there are thousands of people without jobs who are losing their dignity and their hope for a better life. 9.1% of the labor force, translates into 13.1% of the Hispanic community, and 16.7% of the African-American community. I am sure the numbers are worse when analyzed by geographical dispersion.

Let’s put our differences aside. Let’s ally with Starbucks and the Opportunity Finance Network® and help people get back to work in meaningful community businesses. On the bracelet is the word Indivisible. The logo has the word on an US flag. 

We don’t need to wait for government. The American people are strongest when we work together…when we are indivisible.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Bank Transfer Day

A friend of mine was frustrated with the General Strike on Wednesday in Oakland and with the Occupy Wall Street in general. While a member of the 99% and sympathetic to the cause, she had just heard from a worker at the Port of Oakland, who is paid hourly and worried that he lost a day’s income that he needs to feed his family.

From Star Wars to General Strike.  – Thank you to Oakland Mofo for the beautiful photo. 

We are hurting the very people we are supposed to be fighting for, she said (these are my words). Do you really think we hurt the 1% at the ports? She went on to complain that it is frustrating that there is no clear agenda and no clear tactics that will hurt those we are challenging to change their selfish and greedy practices.

She is right. I think I argued with her and probably lost because I knew she is right (Don’t tell her I wrote this!). I reminded her about the post that my colleague Tom Rossi wrote with a clear list of demands, but I had to concede about tactics.

But today, we can do something…and I mean today. As part of the Occupy Wall Street campaign there is a call for people to move their money from for-profit financial institutions to credit unions. So far, almost 80,000 people have made the commitment on Facebook to “send a clear message that conscious consumers won’t support companies with unethical business practices.”

Patelco – my credit union

 

More than $4.5 billion have been moved into new savings accounts in credit unions according to CUNA. 80% of credit unions  are recording significant member growth since the campaign began at the end of September, which was a reaction to the debit card fees that have since been dropped. 

Skeptics say that even if the entire 80,000 were to move their money, this would represent less than 1% of just Bank of America’s customers. There is an estimated $7.5 trillion in banks, including loans and savings. B of A has 57 million customers.

However, there is potential here to make Wall Street listen, even if not to bring it to its knees. The rescinding of the debit card charges is a good lesson. Even when chasing the most profit, a company, even one the size of B of A has to listen to its clients.

And what if every one of those 80,000 who signed up persuaded 5 of their friends. 400,000 people could transfer $30 million. November 5th was the date set for protestors to complete their transfers because the organizers wanted to create a measurable impact. I regret not writing on this earlier. But even if you cannot get out today and transfer your money, or want to research deeper, the banks will take notice if more people continue to protest by moving money into the people-friendly (and people-owned) credit unions. 

Thought the organizers of Bank Transfer Day want to distance themselves from Occupy Wall Street, history (and even in a year’s time) just might record Bank Transfer Day as the most effective measure to come out of this time period. It might also be a turning point in the utilization of the Internet to make strategic strikes and to conduct dissent away from demonstrations, something which is often regarded by people as intimidating.

And perhaps in a year, my friend and I might look back on this period of time together as one of change and one of pride.

 

 

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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