The next step in our campaign to take on the big banks pay and win relief for homeowners is to disrupt business as usual at shareholder meetings across the country. The goal of these actions is to build off the fall mobilizations and the Occupations to keep up the street heat holding the 1% and bank executives accountable – in this case, accountable for the continued foreclosure on families across the country.
The Alliance played a leadership role in this action to shut down business as usual at Wells Fargo’s annual shareholder meeting on April 24.
The setup started in the weeks leading up to the meeting, when groups created a drumbeat with local actions. For example, Washington CAN and Colorado Progressive Coalition mobilized freshly trained activists out of the 99% spring trainings to confront Wells for paying zero federal taxes despite making record profits. Washington CAN foreclosed on the downtown Seattle headquarters, auctioning off all of Wells’ prized possessions, including their lobbyist, while singing a new version of this Land is Your Land. Meanwhile, Colorado Progressive Coalition joined with partners to deliver an overdue tax bill to their local Denver branch.
In preparation for the trip from New York to San Francisco Leni Juca, a small business leader from Make the Road NY, authored an op-ed published in the Nation demanding that Wells Fargo dump its stock in the private prison industry that is destroying immigrant communities.
Washington CAN, Idaho Community Action Network, and Make the Road NY sent leaders to San Francisco holding proxies to disrupt the circus. Each year, Wells Fargo executives take an annual ceremonious walk from their world headquarters across the street to the Mercantile Exchange, to the shareholders meeting. This year, the presence of 1,500 protesters stopped this self-congratulatory dog and pony show, which typically exhibits fancy suited businessmen patting each other on the back for another year of record profits.
Leni Juca (MRNY) & Diana Corcorran (ICAN) were selected to link arms with brothers and sisters from across the country to lead the crowd of 1,500 through the streets of San Francisco to the Mercantile Exchange Building.
AJS leaders stepped up to lead two affinity groups, one highlighting Wells’ investment in the payday lending industry and the other focused on Wells investment in the private prison industry. These groups of proxy holders were poised to raise issues inside the shareholders meeting.
All of AJS staff and leaders and another 200 protesters held proxy shares and were ready to attend the shareholder meeting and raise our demands from the inside. Not surprisingly, Wells CEO John Stumpf and his board of directors hid behind the SF police, who barricaded every entrance to the building. Wells played a cat-and-mouse game, shuffling shareholders from entrance to entrance – in the end, denying them their legal right to participate. Despite these tactic, 25 of our allies managed to make it upstairs and shut down the meeting.
AJS staff and leaders ended the day excited to kick off the season of shareholder meetings confronting corporate power raising issues including: CEO compensation, corporate money in the coming elections, investments in the prison industrial complex, fair mortgages and principal write-down. This action set a high standard for a season of our communities confronting corporate power.
Press coverage was strong across the country. AJS leaders convened after the activities and penned letters to the editor.