Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rally at Wells Fargo: save jobs and homes now!

By Pepe Lozano

CHICAGO – Dozens of people rallied at the downtown Wells Fargo bank here June 11, including a caravan of Quad City Die Casting workers demanding the bank restore credit to their Moline, Ill. factory, which is scheduled to close July 12. Over 100 jobs could be lost, and 80 of the workers there are members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1174.

Quad City Die Casting is a 60-year-old family owned business that manufactures precision metal parts. Wells Fargo received $25 billion in federal bank bailout money and now they should invest in small businesses and good American jobs, says the union.

Housing rights advocates and labor leaders with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), Jobs with Justice and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) joined the Quad City workers, calling on the bank to stop foreclosures, create jobs and rebuild communities. Wells Fargo is on track to foreclose on 330 families this year in just four Southside Chicago zip codes, they said. The bank needs to preemptively modify their loans and keep families in their homes, critics charge.

“Wells Fargo needs to extend us their credit so we can keep our jobs,” said Deb Johann who has worked for Quad City Die Casting for 31 years. “People are going to lose their homes,” she noted. “It’s time that they bail us out.”

Ted Wysocki, board chair of NCRC, said the rally in Chicago was one of 50 around the country targeting Wells Fargo to stop layoffs and foreclosures. “We’re finding that banks that are not extending credit is generating a new wave of home foreclosures,” he said. “We have to rebuild our communities, and people need to be living in their homes. If we as taxpayers extended credit to the big banks then they should invest in good paying American jobs like the workers in Moline.”

David McDowell with SWOP agreed, adding that in the first quarter alone this year Wells Fargo has foreclosed on 88 homes on Chicago’s Southwest side. “Our children have to pass by five, ten or 20 abandoned homes on their way to and from school everyday,” he said. “This is dangerous and puts our children at risk when it comes to predators, gang violence or drug dealers.” Much of this is the fault of big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America who got bailed out and are now selling out working families. “So we’re here today to say we will fight and we will win.”

McDowell pointed out it takes five weeks to get an appointment with the bank when it comes to resolving foreclosed homes. The bank's attempt to correct the situation one at a time is erroneous and the process takes months, he said.

Fran Tobin, board chair with Northside Action for Justice, said, “We’re here to challenge Wells Fargo and the corporate greed of them and their friends.” Big banks continue to get rich while more and more people are becoming homeless due to bad sub prime loans and home foreclosures, he said. “This is not right and it’s about time to have a financial system that represents the interests of working people. It’s time for a moratorium on foreclosures, and we need them to stop now.”

UE Western Region President Carl Rosen said, “Wells Fargo got money to keep the economy going but right now they are a roadblock to our recovery.”

UE drew national attention last year when hundreds of workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors factory after Bank of America cut credit to the Chicago business. The workers eventually won a settlement with the bank, and the factory was sold to a buyer that plans to re-open the plant and re-hire the former Republic workers.

Several of the Republic workers were at the rally to show their solidarity with the Quad City workers and to pass the torch.

“We must hold Wells Fargo accountable for their lending practices,” said Melvin Maclin, vice-president of UE Local 1110 from Republic Windows. “Now, when we most need it, they should provide the financing needed to keep small businesses open and people working. That’s what we gave them the TARP money for,” he said.

During the rally people picketed in front of the bank, holding signs and shouting, “No justice, no peace, stop foreclosures and keep our plants open.”

At the end they urged Wells Fargo to do the right thing.

Or else, “We’ll be back!” they chanted.

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