Union members are gathering on Wall Street Thursday to protest bank practices and push for specific reforms. The AFL-CIO, one of the largest labor unions in the country, expects 10,000 people to march through New York’s financial district calling for, among other things, a tax on trading. Union leaders say big banks owe taxpayers for the $700 billion bailout the firms received during the financial crisis.
In an appearance on Keith Olbermann’s show on Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said his group wanted to tell the banks to stop fighting financial reform.
Earlier this week Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein testified before Congress and said he supported financial reform. “The biggest beneficiary of reform is Wall Street itself,” he said, because it would “make markets safer.”
Nonetheless, the AFL-CIO was today touting a piece on their Web site saying banks are spending $1.5 million a day lobbying against reform. The Financial Services Roundtable, a trade group which represents some of the largest financial services companies in the country, has said it supports 80 percent of what has been proposed.
According to opensecrets.org, labor groups are also big spenders on Capitol Hill, doling out $43 million in lobbying in 2009.
Trumka said the AFL-CIO’s other top goals are to get banks to pay for the bailouts they received — he suggested a per-trade tax — and to force them to lend to small- and medium-sized businesses. Critics of a bank tax have pointed out that higher taxes are unlikely to add liquidity to the credit market.
Minnesota Congressman John Kline, the senior Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, held a press call earlier this week in which he said, “It’s ironic that you have union leaders marching on Wall Street to complain about jobs that are lost and pension plans that are in trouble … It’s important to look at what the unions are doing themselves to affect jobs and pensions and the economy.”
Kline pointed out that union leaders fund their own pensions as a much higher rate than that of their rank-and-file members, as reported earlier this month by The Daily Caller.
Trumka accused the GOP of siding with the banks, even though big banks such as Goldman Sachs gave just as much, if not more, in contributions to Democrats than to Republicans.
“We want them to play by the same rules that everyone else is playing by,” said Trumka. Kline noted that with the recess appointment of labor attorney Craig Becker to the National Labor Relationship Board, the White House played by its own rules and circumvented the legislative process.
Financial reform passed a key legislative hurdle last night and is now being debated on the Senate floor.
You can watch the protest live on the AFL-CIO Web site here, starting at 4:00 p.m., and follow the AFL-CIO’s spokesman on twitter for real-time updates, including a picture of the 50-foot Jumbo-tron the hauled in.