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Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was on the hot seat Tuesday when he faced Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other angry lawmakers at a Senate Banking Committee hearing designed to investigate the bank's widespread rip-off of its customers. Warren told Stumpf, who earns $19 million a year: "You should resign...You should be criminally investigated." Warren's verbal assault on Stumpf generated considerable publicity. But this issue wouldn't have surfaced in the first place without the hard work of grassroots community and labor organizations - especially the Committee for Better Banks -- that first brought the scandal to the attention of the media, elected officials, and regulators. Warren also demanded both the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission criminally investigate Stumpf for the bank's practice of pressuring its low-level employees to create over 2 million unwanted checking and credit-card accounts without consumers' knowledge or permission in order to grow the bank's stock price. She told Stumpf that during the years that Wells Fargo engaged in this "scam," Strumpf's own portfolio of company stock increased by $200 million. She urged Stumpf to return the compensation he received while these practices went on. "So, you haven't resigned, you haven't returned a single nickel of your personal earnings, you haven't fired a single senior executive," Warren told Stumpf. "Instead, evidently, your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don't have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves. It's gutless leadership." "You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket," Warren said. Warren questioned Stumpf about the fraudulent accounts, asking how such an operation could have occurred without the knowledge of top management. Wells Fargo employees say they did so because of what they've called the bank's "sell or die" quota system which put pressure on them to engage in these practices in order to keep their jobs. They've said it was a routine practice that employees referred to as "sandbagging." Wells Fargo's official line is that the employees were acting on their own to skim extra pay from the bogus accounts. Activists are up in arms over Wells Fargo's double standard in dealing with its employees. After the scandal was exposed by grassroots advocates, the media, and government regulators, the bank fired at least 5,300 employees and refunded millions of dollars to customers. But bank reform activists are skeptical that so many employees could have acted on their own without the knowledge of higher-up bank executives. Meanwhile, in July, in the wake of the scandal, Carrie Tolstedt, Wells Fargo's director of consumer banking, the operation that opened fake accounts, abruptly left the bank where she worked for 27 years. She took with her a $124.5 million bonus. After her retirement announcement, Stumpf praised Tolstedt as "a standard-bearer of our culture" and "a champion for our customers." Warren criticized Stumpf for failing to withdraw Tolstedt's bonus (a practice known as a "clawback) in light of the revelations about her division's behavior. Stumpf said it was up to the bank's compensation committee, comprised of board members, to decide whether to rescind Tolstedt's bonus. "If you have no opinions on the most massive fraud that's hit this bank since the beginning of time, how can it be that you get to continue to collect a paycheck?" Warren asked. Moreover, activists say that the problem goes well beyond Wells Fargo and is an industry-wide scandal. Ruth Landaverde, a former employee at both Wells Fargo and Bank of America, said the pressure from her supervisors at both banks was so intense that she developed a tic in her eye and had trouble sleeping. She told the Associated Press that in order to keep her job she was required to sell four credit cards and four auto loans each week in addition to three home mortgages or refinances. "I wasn't going to do something unethical, but the sales pressure was very real," she said. "I can see why some employees did what they did." Landaverde is now a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), a statewide advocacy group that works on housing and banking issues and is a member of the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of community and labor groups. In an email this week to ACCE members and supporters, she wrote: "When I worked for Bank of America, I felt uncomfortable when I was given a list of bank customers and told to call them and push new accounts and credit cards that could end up sticking them with unnecessary fees and debt. What's worse, we were targeting customers in low-income communities of color much more than the customers in more affluent zip codes." Landaverde explained that "there are still many more banks that have not committed to stop requiring their employees to push unnecessary products in order to keep their jobs. And now, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf is throwing his own employees under the bus rather than accepting responsibility for the outrageous high-pressure sales culture that he and other Wall Street executives are creating!" "I know first-hand that predatory sales exist across the U.S. banking industry," said Cassaundra Plummer, a former teller at TD Bank and member of the Committee for Better Banks. "At TD bank, sales goals made it impossible for frontline bank workers to help customers find the financial products best suited to them. My manager would encourage customers to take out home equity lines to go on vacation which is the worst financial advice I've ever heard! We need to end predatory sales goals across the industry not just Wells Fargo." Last year the Committee for Better Banks delivered a petition signed by more than 11,000 people to Stumpf, along with a letter noting that workers faced "pressures to meet sales quotas under strict monitoring and threat of losing their jobs, often forcing them to push unnecessary products and fees on to their customers, causing them stress and financial hardship," and that loan servicing departments have been using similar tactics to push consumers toward riskier products they can ill afford. The group has now launched a petition asking elected leaders in Los Angeles and other cities around the country to ban all city business with banks that force their employees to meet sales goals for high fee products such as credit cards, new accounts and home refinance loans. They say that these incentive programs create a system where bank workers are forced to engage in predatory practices against their professional and ethical beliefs. "Wells Fargo's action to eliminate sales quotas is a hard-won victory for front-line bank workers who have been denouncing abusive sales goals for over two years," said Reuben Traite, an organizer with the Committee for Better Banks. "The fact that Wells Fargo turned a blind eye is appalling. But these high pressure sales goals are rampant across big banks and we need to end it across the industry." Activists with the Los Angeles chapter of ACCE brought the issue to the attention of the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story in 2013. Once it made the papers, Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer conducted his own investigation and then sued Wells Fargo. All this got the attention of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency. Last week, CFPB Director Richard Cordray, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry, and Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer announced that they had reached settlements with Wells Fargo over its "a major breach of trust." Wells Fargo agreed to pay the CFPB $100 million (the largest fine the agency has ever imposed) in addition to $50 million to the city and county of Los Angeles, and $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Wells Fargo did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlements, although it issued an apology to its customers, promised to revise its sales practices, and agreed to pay consumers refunds for fees assessed on checking and credit cards accounts they didn't authorize. Activists point out that the fines being levied against Wells Fargo are a drop in the bucket compared with Wells Fargo's 2015 profits of $20 billion. It is even less than the more than $200 million in company stock that Strumpf owns. Last year Wells Fargo -- the nation's fourth largest bank by assets and its leading home lender -- paid Strumpf $19.3 million. He serves on the board of directors of Target Corporation and Chevron Corporation and, until recently, on the board of the Financial Services Roundtable, a powerful industry lobby group. The bank's apology and refunds won't make the issue go away. Many consumers are suing the banks as are former employees who say they were fired (or forced to resign) when they refused to engage in the fraudulent practices in order to meet the bank's unrealistic sales quotas. The issue first emerged last year when the Los Angeles Times uncovered Wells Fargo's illegal practices. In response to the Times story, Feuer initiated his own investigation and sue the bank, alleging that it had "victimized their customers by using pernicious and often illegal sales tactics," including unattainable quotas that pressured bank employees to "engage in fraudulent behavior." The CFPB - the federal agency created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank bank reform law -- undertook its own investigation. He discovered that Wells Fargo employees opened as many as 1.5 million checking and savings accounts, and more than 500,000 credit cards, without consumers' knowledge or permission. The LA and CFPB investigations, the resulting media coverage, and Wells Fargo's attempt to blame its lower-rung employees for the scandal led five Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee -- Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Jack Reed (R.I.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), and Warren -- to push its Republican chairman, Richard Shelby of Alabama, to hold Tuesday's hearings. The Democrats are particularly interested in asking CEO Strump if he intends to retract lucrative bonuses for management-level employees in the wake of the scandal. They sent Strump a letter last week expressing concern that consumers and low-level employees will bear the burden of the bank's misconduct "while senior executives walk away with multi-million dollar awards based on what the company later finds out are fraudulent practices." The San Francisco-based Wells Fargo has long been a target of bank reform activists for its troublesome track record of risky and reckless behavior. For more than a decade, grassroots groups have challenged Wells Fargo's racially discriminatory lending practices and aggressive foreclosures. They have picketed at the offices and homes of the bank's top executives, sued the bank for violating laws against racist mortgage lending, and testified before Congress, state legislatures and City Councils demanding that they investigate and reign in Wells Fargo's troublesome practices. The activists have primarily been bank consumers and residents of neighborhoods harmed by Wells Fargo's redlining and other practices. But the two-year old Committee for Better Banks is comprised of bank employees as well as consumers, representing a new and potentially powerful coalition. The CBB is aligned with the Center for Popular Democracy, a national network of local activist groups that work on housing, bank, and workers rights issues. CPD helped set the stage for the current campaign with its study of bank workers. The CPD report revealed that some of the nation's largest banks, including Wells Fargo and Citigroup, pressure its front-line employees to engage in fraudulent practices to keep their jobs. According the report, these bank employees try to serve customers responsibly, but feel pressure from higher-ups to meet the quotas in order to keep their jobs. A report last year by the National Employment Law Center on banking industry wages found that almost three quarters (74.1 percent) of U.S. bank tellers and almost half (44.2 percent) of bank customer service representatives earn less than $15 an hour. The median hourly wage for bank tellers is $12.44. A study by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education found that nearly one-third of the families of all tellers are on public assistance. In New York City--the capital of the nation's banking industry--39 percent of tellers and their family members are on some form of public assistance program. Not surprisingly, the Committee for Better Banks is now part of the broader movement to raise wages for service-sector employees like bank tellers to $15 an hour. Other groups involved in the better banking campaign include Move On, the Communication Workers of America, New York Communities for Change, ACCE, Jobs with Justice, Make the Road, and Americans for Financial Reform, a DC-based watchdog group. The idea for the CFPB was first proposed by Elizabeth Warren when she was still a professor at Harvard Law School. Before she was elected to the Senate, she helped shepherd the plan for the agency through Congress in the wake of the Wall Street crisis and nationwide mortgage meltdown that began in 2008. President Obama supported the idea and helped get it incorporated into the Dodd-Frank reform bill that was enacted over heavy opposition from the bank industry lobby. Since 2010, banking and business lobby groups, with the help of Republican allies in Congress, have sought to undermine the agency by reducing its budget and authority. Writing in The New Yorker, Adam Davidson pointed out that the CFPB's entire budget is little more than $600 million. In contrast, he wrote, "Wells Fargo's revenues are more than eighty billion dollars. And Wells is just one of thousands of banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that the C.F.P.B. is mandated to monitor." Senate Banking Committee chair Shelby, an Alabama Republican, is one of many GOP members of Congress who complain that the CFPB is too powerful and that its tough regulations lead banks to offer fewer consumer products. But a recent article in American Banker, an industry publication, suggested that Wells' settlement would make it difficult for bank lobbyists and Republicans in Congress to attack the CFPB. Even so, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for dismantling nearly all of the Dodd-Frank reforms. In contrast, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton last week touted the CFPB's "forceful response" to the Wells Fargo scandal, adding that it was "a stark reminder of why we need a strong consumer watchdog to safeguard against unfair and deceptive practices." Echoed Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, a DC-based watchdog group that has played an important part in defending the CFPB from its opponents: "The current Wells Fargo scandal reveals why we need a strong regulatory agency that has the backs of bank consumers as well as employees." "Wells Fargo's action to eliminate sales quotas is a hard-won victory for front-line bank workers like me who have been coming together in the Committee for Better Banks and working to end to high-pressure sales goals that hurt our families and communities," said Julie Miller, a former Wells Fargo branch manager and a member of the Committee for Better Banks. "Wells Fargo got into this scandal because it turned a deaf ear to the alarms sounded by consumers and its own workers, and its experience proves that these sales goals have no place in the consumer banking industry," Miller observed. "Predatory sales goals are rampant at big banks across the country, and we will keep on working and organizing to make sure Wells Fargo makes good on its word and that other banks follow suit by implementing fair business practices for workers and customers." Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Left-wing groups warn the Democratic nominee not to appoint Wall Street-linked Lael Brainard or Tom Nides to senior finance and economic jobs.
New York Community Bancorp Inc. (NYCB) has moved higher as of late, but there could definitely be trouble on the horizon for this company
I recently came across a fascinating new model for accelerating corporate philanthropy in a radically different way. In my 25 years of business, this is one of the most intriguing opportunities I've seen. It is utterly transformative. Corporate social responsibility is actually on the rise at the moment. Pledge 1% is supported by Salesforce Chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, who is quoted as say "companies can do more than just make money, they can serve others". Richard Branson's B Team supports 100% Human at Work. Conscious Capitalism has an annual summit for CEOs and Presidents to explore how to create supportive cultures within their organizations. Still, a new venture brings Wall Street, CEOs and non-profits together in a way that signals a pivotal time in U.S. history. Celadon Financial Group is a full-service, independent broker dealer that has been providing trade execution solutions for financial institutions and other professional investors in the U.S. and abroad since 1986. Celadon provides multiple investment-related services. The most eyebrow-raising one, however, is offered through Caritas Partners, their philanthropic trading division. Caritas Partners is managed by two veteran New York Stock Exchange specialists, Richard C. Naso and Donald Powell, and focuses on serving public companies that choose to buy back their own stock. Stock repurchase is currently a particularly popular practice, as many of the country's largest companies are holding record amounts of cash, and buying back their own stock has long been considered one of the best ways to increase a company's overall strength. What is so different about Caritas Partners? Many firms on Wall Street compete for share buyback business. Caritas is unique because it works with public companies to advance their corporate social responsibility goals by contributing a predetermined portion of its brokerage commission to a qualified charity selected by the client. In addition, a company also gets to choose how much of a commission Caritas may collect. The higher the commission, the greater the percentage of the commission that Caritas donates to charity on the client's behalf. I said it was radical, did I not? Commissions range from a penny and a half per share, from which 5% gets donated, to five cents per share, which yields a 40% donation. Since the percentage of the donation increases with the per share rate, the amount of the donation can increase exponentially. The client may donate to one of many qualified charities with which Caritas Partners already collaborates, or to one of their own choosing. Caritas Partners has opened this philanthropic trading model to asset managers of nonprofit organizations including nonprofit organizations with internal asset management operations. This model creates a sustainable stream of mission-related revenue to support these organization's fund development efforts. All transactions are executed through Celadon Financial Group. Rather than relying solely on algorithms to determine strategy like most other firms, Caritas take a personalized approach for each and every client, even going so far as to advise a change of course in the middle of a trading day. There is a fully transparent audit trail, as well as an option to publicly promote a company's use of the Caritas Partners program through joint communication platforms. Caritas founder and President Richard C. Naso is an innovative leader with 40 years of NYSE experience. Managing Partner Donald Powell has more than 15 years trading experience on the NYSE, where he was the exchange's head trader for American Depositary Receipts (ADR's) in the Latin America market. There could hardly be a question of two such smart and experienced achievers creating additional success in the financial community. To pursue such a radically different course as luring corporate America into increasing socially responsible giving, however, required collaborators who were not only successful in financial trading services, but also committed to philanthropic goals. In this case, the merging of disparate networks yielded an extraordinary partnership. Lola C. West and Ian Fuller are the co-founders of WestFuller Advisors, a successful boutique wealth management company and Celadon affiliate. The foundation of their business philosophy stands out amongst run of the mill financial institutions, in that they recognize the accumulation and preservation of wealth is not only about money, but also about the creation and achievement of meaningful individual life goals. Lola West is in the Who's Who of American Women and was honored by the "Lola C. West Day" in New York City. She has fundraised and coordinated events for South African President Nelson Mandela, renowned opera singer Jessye Norman, playwright August Wilson, among others. Today, West advises individuals and institutions on how to achieve their vision for the future, and helps them to create the financial goals that will realize their aspirations. She was a senior partner of LWF Wealth Management Group and a wealth advisor with Merrill Lynch for almost a decade of her career, before co-founding WestFuller Advisors. West was on the board of directors of Jazz at Lincoln Center for several years and continues to be active in the New York community. She is a Charter Member for the Advisory Council of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at Brooklyn Museum, as well as a member of Friends of African American Art at Brooklyn Museum, MoMA and the nominating committee for the Four Freedoms Award by Roosevelt Institute. Ian Fuller firmly believes that finance is a pathway to strengthening society. In addition to his dedication to the Arts, Fuller is fiercely committed to social entrepreneurship and community development. He works closely with both organizations and individuals, not only to harness the maximum power of their finances, but to also imbue them with purpose. Prior to co-founding WestFuller Advisors, Fuller moved from analyst positions with United Nations Population Fund and KPMG Hong Kong to serving nearly 5 years as a wealth advisor for Merrill Lynch, and then as a partner of LWF Wealth Management Group. Fuller provides mentoring to urban youth throughout the New York City metropolitan area, as well as pro bono instruction for financial literacy. He serves on the board of Color of Change, and is the treasurer of many non-profit and philanthropic organizations, such as the United Nations Association of New York, The Workers Lab, Resource Generation and non-profit art gallery City Without Walls. Together, West and Fuller seemed destined to continue along their intended path of successfully providing financial services with a humanist touch. Certainly a uniquely worthy goal, in and of itself, it has now been propelled to a whole new level by their involvement with Caritas Partners. And who better to align with a company which upholds the ideal of "Capitalism on a Mission" through true social impact. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
A New York community struggles with grief and uncertainty in the aftermath of the murder of an imam and his assistant.
Bill Bratton will leave his job as the New York City police commissioner next month.
The Q2 earnings season is in full swing and you must be keeping an eye on the companies that are set to announce their results.
For over 200 combined years, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and Roundabout Theatre Company (RTC) have served the greater New York community through both the compelling work and artists featured on their stages and the countless offstage initiatives that engage patrons and develop new audiences. They've masterfully navigated changing landscapes on a variety of fronts - artistic, labor, municipal, the general population - by building remarkable relationships. Katryn Geane, an Account Supervisor specializing in arts & culture clients at Situation, sat down with representatives from both organizations to find out about their priorities and perspectives. AUDIENCE "We are data-driven, customer-focused, and personalized. Our audiences are as varied in their interests, tastes, and means as our programming is eclectic. It's incumbent upon the Theatre to meet every prospect and patron where they are and to invite each person to participate at their greatest comfort level." - Robert Sweibel, Director of Marketing & Audience Development, RTC "This connection must be multidirectional. We provide our audiences ticket services, but also adventure, connections to artists, benefits, a philanthropic outlet, education, online content, and beyond." - Shannon Lacek, Director of Marketing, BAM DONORS "Our guiding words are: warm and respectful. We avoid being overbearing, one-sided, and robotic." - Lynne Gugenheim Gregory, Director of Development, RTC "When cultivating institutional relationships with foundations and other grant makers, we must be honest, open, and fulfill our objectives and those of the nonprofit. A shared trust in the ability of the nonprofit to produce successful programs is imperative." - William Lynch, Director of Leadership Gifts, BAM ARTISTS "Our relationships with artists must be malleable and honest." - Jill Rafson, Director of New Play Development, RTC "Both parties should always be supportive and equal, not sycophantic." - Amy Cassello, Associate Producer NextWave Festival, BAM WHAT IS AN EXCITING GROWTH OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU AND YOUR CONSTITUENTS? "Developing and delivering a brand experience to our patrons across all channels and venues." - Robert Sweibel, Director of Marketing & Audience Development, RTC "Expanding diversity onstage and off in our family of artists." - Jill Rafson, Director of New Play Development, RTC "Utilizing increased learnings about member preferences so we can provide well curated communications." - Claire Charlesworth, Director of Membership Programs, BAM COMMUNITY "The greatest strength is the hands-on nature of our work. In both classrooms and in our on-site workshop spaces, we are empowering students to be creators." - Jennifer DiBella, Director of Education, RTC "We build new relationships by listening first. Then, it's our job to nurture creativity, self-reflection, and belonging." - Steven McIntosh, Director of Education and Family Programs, BAM -- #RelationshipExponent. This article originally appeared as part of Situation's publication, SITUATION. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
When the 2008 financial crash slammed the New York City construction industry, Maribel Touré's husband lost his job as an architect. On top of that, Maribel suffered a serious accident. But what really plunged the family into financial trouble was sending their daughter to college. As a child growing up in Mexico, Maribel's father had repeatedly told her that la educación es la clave -- "education is the key." So she worked hard to obtain a college degree in Mexico and then moved to the United States, where she became a radiology technician. Maribel wanted the same opportunity for her daughter to obtain "the key." But high tuition bills strained the family budget and pushed them to the brink of foreclosure. "The government was helping the banks, but they refused to help me," Maribel said recently. "I never stopped working and I never stopped paying my taxes -- the same taxes the government was giving to the banks." Maribel is just one of many Americans who were hurt by the financial crisis and want more done to crack down on the Wall Street greed and recklessness that caused it. That's why she's added her support to a new Take on Wall Street campaign that aims to channel widespread public anger over our broken financial system into concrete, bold change. The campaign's priority reforms would help ensure that Wall Street pays its fair share of taxes. The additional revenue could be used for urgent needs, such as making college more affordable for families like the Tourés. A small tax of just a fraction of a percent on each stock and derivative trade, for example, could generate massive revenue while also curbing short-term speculation. For ordinary investors, such a tax would be hardly noticeable. The real targets would be the high-speed traders who now dominate our financial markets while adding no real value to the economy. Closing tax loopholes that now encourage excessive executive pay could also generate much-needed funds for social programs or public investment to fix our crumbling national roads and bridges. One of these loopholes lets private equity and hedge fund managers pay a 20 percent capital gains rate on the bulk of their income -- just half of the nearly 40 percent top rate the wealthiest Americans normally owe. As a result, billionaire financiers pay a lower tax rate than millions of our country's teachers, firefighters, and nurses. Maribel Touré ended her story on a hopeful note. She said that after feeling guilty and ashamed about her financial problems for a long time, she decided to fight back. She joined New York Communities for Change, a coalition of working families in low- and moderate-income communities that fights for social and economic justice. They worked with local officials to put pressure on her bank, so she was able to modify her mortgage loan in time to save her house. Her story, she said, shows that if we join together, we can win against Wall Street. Originally published by OtherWords. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Adriana Alvarez (left) with fastfood and underpaid workers from the US (left) and Nordic countries (right) earlier this year in Copenhagen This month people like Adriana Alvarez will come to Oak Brook, Ill. for the annual McDonald's shareholders' meeting. As McDonald's pats itself on the back for its highest-ever stock price, Adriana and hundreds of other McDonald's workers will protest and call for $15 and union rights. Adriana is someone to watch. Earlier this year she met with other fast food workers in Denmark. There she said: "I really fear for Christmas because I can't afford the toys my son wants and I know he will be disappointed." In Denmark she shed light on the reality of everyday life for the millions of low-wage fast food, homecare, childcare, airport, adjunct, retail, and other underpaid workers across the United States and the world. While others are eating, drinking, and celebrating with their families, millions more, like Adriana, are dreading Christmas morning in basement apartments, public housing, a relative's extra room or couch, and for some, homeless shelters. In Denmark and the other Nordic countries that Adriana and her coworkers recently visited, most fast food workers do not fear for the holidays. They at least have the basics of a decent life: instead of minimum wage, they benefit from national bargaining agreements that allow them to earn more than $17 per hour (US) and enjoy fully paid healthcare, pensions, sick days, personal days, and up to 30 paid vacation days per year. And the cost of a Big Mac? Contrary to assertions by McDonald's and other companies that say they can't afford living wages and benefits that a union contract would bring, the price difference between a Big Mac in the US and a Big Mac in the Nordic countries is only 40 cents. Adriana is a true leader in the Fight for $15. Without her bravery and sacrifice, the presidential candidates would not be weighing in on the federal minimum wage. Her courage, and that of many people around her is essential to winning $15 and a union at the nation's largest fast food chains, and it reminds me of an effort by workers in the Midwest more than 30 years ago. Fastfood worker organizing committee in Detroit in 1980 In 1980, US Steel and GM were still major employers in the country, but McDonald's and other fast food giants were gaining fast. Oil shocks and economic shocks were throwing millions out of work and some of the few remaining jobs were in fast food. In the early 1980s, workers employed by McDonald's and Burger King in Detroit started organizing for better wages and benefits. The workers partnered with United Labor Unions (ULU), an offshoot of the national community organization, ACORN. I was a young organizer working alongside this first generation of fast-food leaders at the Greyhound Burger King inside the bus station in downtown Detroit. After three years, workers won a union contract, one of the first union contracts in fast food settled in the United States. But even with that victory, it was clear that management would do anything to fight off workers' attempts to organize and had the money and resources that workers did not. From that small effort, workers learned how the fast-food giants think and that they will stop at nothing to keep wages low, jobs part-time, and zero benefits. Almost 30 years later the tactics of McDonald's have not changed. In November 2012 a new generation of courageous fast-food workers called for $15 an hour in New York City and were supported by fastfood workers in Chicago. A few months later, they did the same thing on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Like the earlier effort I was involved in, the workers received critical support from the community--this time from SEIU, New York Communities for Change(NYCC), Chicago's Action Now, Leadership for the Common Good, and ACCE. With workers taking the lead and unions and community groups showing support, a movement rose that has expanded to more than 300 cities and tens of thousands of workers. This is a model that works. Homecare and childcare providers, university adjuncts, nursing home workers, health care workers, airport workers and security guards are joining together and speaking out, contributing to the recent passage of minimum wage laws that put more than ten million workers on a path to $15 per hour. Across the country, 17 million workers have won big raises since those brave workers in New York City started their Fight for $15 in 2012. The workers in the Fight for $15 are learning the same lesson we learned 35 years ago--when workers come together and take a stand, they win. Keith Kelleher is president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Kansas (HCIIMK), the largest SEIU local union in the Midwest, representing over 92,000 homecare, childcare, nursing home, hospital and healthcare workers. He began his organizing career organizing fastfood and other low wage workers in Detroit in 1980, resulting in the first fastfood contract at that time. Since 1980, his local has organized over 70,000 new homecare, childcare and healthcare workers, and helped spark a movement that has led to over 600,000 homecare and childcare workers joining SEIU. An early strategist and supporter of the Fight for 15 organizing of fastfood, homecare, childcare and healthcare workers, he is actively organizing and supporting these efforts today. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
In 2008, the massive housing bubble collapsed due to Wall Street's manipulating of markets and government, as well as a whole lot of old-fashioned fraud. The result for working-class Americans: millions of homes lost to foreclosure, millions more underwater. Now one would think that the government agencies assigned to dealing with housing, principally the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) would have been all over this massive crisis, and done everything they could do to help the homeowners who were devastated by these events. Instead, they have acted much more in Wall Street's favor. In fact, in the last two Distressed Housing Asset Pools, 98% of the sales have gone to the same Wall Street players that helped to cause the crisis in the first place, continuing a deeply disturbing long-term trend. Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of protest on this, with organizations and members of Congress working for years to convince HUD and FHFA to make reforms in distressed housing policy that benefit working class people instead of Wall Street. This week, there was yet another letter from the coalition of groups that care about these issues to HUD Secretary Julián Castro. But in the cynical, twisted world of Washington politics, this letter sparked a controversy -- not a controversy about the substance, mind you, but one about whether Castro should be attacked at all since he is on Hillary's vice presidential nomination short list, and because he is a Latino. This controversy reminds me of classic political campaign tactics, where if your opponent attacks you on something you are vulnerable on, instead of answering the substance of the attack, you try to change the subject with your own attack on an entirely different issue. One of the organizations whose board I chair, American Family Voices, has been in the coalition working for years on these issues, and we co-signed that letter about HUD's Wall Street-oriented policies. We were ensnared in this controversy, as a Latino board member who wants Castro to be the VP nominee resigned from our board, and shared his resignation letter, as well as some private e-mail dialogue between me and him, with Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed was an interesting choice. When you search the site for substantive stories on Distressed Asset Stabilization Program, the particular program in question, "Distressed Asset Stabilization Program " you get this result: Nothing. The site has never written a single word about the issue. My former board member, Joe Velasquez -- who, in spite of our disagreement on this subject, I have great admiration, affection, and respect for -- wrote in his resignation letter that "Julián Castro was born a progressive and he knows social injustice firsthand." I have heard from a number of other friends that Castro is a strong progressive, and while I'm not familiar with his overall political record or philosophy, I understand that he was a leader on some important issues while mayor of San Antonio. He may well be a wonderfully progressive person in general. Were he to be nominated and elected, I certainly hope all these views are right and that he would be a strong progressive vice president. Personally, I strongly support having a person of color on the Democratic ticket, because I think it is the right thing to do both morally and politically. But I also want anyone on the ticket to have a strong track record on progressive policy. What the cynics aren't getting is that this letter was never an attack on him personally, an attack on his broader record as a progressive, or an indirect way to play VP politics. It is about HUD's track record of playing footsie with Wall Street in terms of distressed housing. And however great Secretary Castro is on those other issues, this track record sure isn't great. And I'm not the one who came up with that analysis. Forty-five members of the House (22 of them people of color) sent a critical letter to Secretary Castro and FHFA Director Watt on this issue . Elizabeth Warren has spoken out strongly on the issue, as has Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva. The New York Times wrote this on the subject and The American Prospect here. And there have been literally years of scrappy organizing on these issues by housing, community, and online groups. And you know what is revealing? None of the pushback on our criticism of Castro's housing policy is saying anything about how or why the coalition of groups that signed this letter are wrong. His defenders are saying we should not criticize Julián Castro because he is Latino; that any criticism of him is wrong. In Joe Velasquez's words, "an attack on him is an attack on the Latino community." Well, the seven Latino members of Congress who co-signed that critical letter to Castro and Watt don't think that. Latino blogger Markos Moulitsas doesn't think so. Presente.org, the biggest Latino online organization in the country, doesn't think so. The thousands of Latino leaders and members of the big community organizations Alliance of Californians and New York Communities for Change don't think so. This is not a political attack concocted by some white people who, for nefarious reasons unknown, don't want a Latino vice president. This is valid, substantive criticism that organizations deeply involved with communities of color and members of Congress, many of whom are also people of color, have been making for years -- because distressed housing policy heavily impacts communities of color. Housing and financial policy have had an enormous impact on tens of millions of working class homeowners and, because of foreclosures, former homeowners. This is one of the central economic issues of our time for poor and working-class people of all colors, and it is truly striking that none of the defenders of Castro have even tried to defend him on the substance of our criticism. Maybe that's because HUD's policy is indefensible. In light of this letter, there are now rumors that HUD may be making some reforms in its distressed housing policy. Let's hope that all these Castro defenders that say he is a great progressive are right, and that he makes the changes in policy that would put him on the side of Latino, African-American, and other working class people rather than on the side of Wall Street. If Secretary Castro does this, no one will become a bigger fan of him than me. In the meantime, all the diverse progressives cited above will keep talking about good housing policy no matter who the HUD secretary might be. So to Joe Velasquez and other Latino leaders who passionately want a Latino on the ticket, and see Julián Castro as their best hope, I get where you are coming from and I'm sorry you are upset. But a policy siding with Wall Street over working class Latinos, African-Americans, and other Americans is wrong, and it should be changed. And the groups who care about these issues are not backing down on this issue. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.