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Oakland teachers protest at banks

OEA protest on Thursday at Rockridge. Photo courtesy of Craig Gordon, OEAOEA protest. Photo courtesy of Craig Gordon, OEA.

If you passed the shopping center at 51st Street and Broadway this afternoon, you might have wondered what the protest was all about. Retired teacher and OEA activist Jack Gerson tells us in the below account:

More than fifty Oakland teachers (members of the Oakland Education Association) and allies staged a spirited protest today calling for reversing priorities to bail out schools, not banks, and to end foreclosures. The demonstrators delivered their message at three Oakland bank branches — Wells Fargo, Chase, and Bank of America — all in the Rockridge Shopping Center. Their message was that the $4.7 trillion bailout of the big banks came at the expense of schools, essential public services, and the nine million families who have lost their homes to bank foreclosures. This message resonated with the many passing motorists who honked their horns in support, and to many bank customers and shoppers who voiced their agreement that something is very wrong when banks are “too big to fail” but schools, workers and families are apparently just the right size to sacrifice.

Today’s action began with a rally in front of the Chase branch at 4:30. At 5 PM the protesters marched to the Bank of America branch, where they picketed before moving on to Wells Fargo. At about 5:30 PM, OEA President Betty Olson-Jones led a delegation into the Wells Fargo branch and presented the branch manager with a letter to be delivered to Wells Fargo President John Stumpf. The letter called on Wells Fargo to organize a bank bailout of the Oakland school debt; to publicly endorse increased taxation of bank and corporate profits; to endorse a “split-roll” property tax to tax corporate property at higher rates than homes; and ending foreclosures by adjusting mortgages to reflect homes’ reduced market values. The delegation remained in the bank branch until the letter was faxed to Mr. Stumpf.

OEA and its allies were greatly encouraged by the community’s enthusiastic and sympathetic response, and believe it shows that there is real potential for a mass campaign to set priorities straight and to show that there’s not a lack of money — it’s just not going to the right places.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • livegreen

    I agree with the OEA’s attribution. But since much of the bailout happened nationally, while the budget problems are faced locally, there is a disconnect.
    That Betty Olson-Jones has to deliver a letter to a teller, while the President of Wells Fargo can meet with national leaders, is telling.

    I propose the OEA take further action than just protest. For example, highlight some of the Community Banks and Credit Unions in Oakland who offer alternatives. Highlight where teachers and OEA members themselves bank.

    On the other hand, protest might be the only action the OEA knows how to do. At least it’s all we ever hear of them doing. Is that reality, or the fault of the press?

  • Starshaped

    The OEA does a lot more than protest but protests are ‘sexy’, I guess. The day to day business of running a union isn’t very interesting. By the way, the reason that those big banks were protested was not just about the bailout but rather the fact that Wells Fargo and B of A hold the state takeover debt. A debt that was essentially doubled by the state takeover people.

  • J.R.

    “there is real potential for a mass campaign to set priorities straight and to show that there’s not a lack of money — it’s just not going to the right places”.

    NOW! they are beginning to get it, I’ve posted this many times. Oh, the sweet irony of it. The taxpayers need to applaud these individual for finally waking up to the concept of priorities(as kids in classrooms first, administration and paper pushers dead last).

  • Katy Murphy

    Hmm… I can’t speak for all reporters, but the prospect of covering your average protest is not sexy to me. At all.

    It’s easy and straightforward for a short-staffed news organization to do, though, and it can provide a good jumping-off point for issues coverage. I imagine that’s why demonstrations get as much play as they do, especially on TV.

  • Hot r

    I’m with JR. Even if it’s a letter to a teller, symbolically it speaks volumes to the public. This is where the real exorbitant salaries and bonuses lie.

  • Catherine

    Would OEA be willing to pay back the money with interest? The vast majority of the Bank Bailout money has been paid back to the federal government with interest.

    If OEA would be even willing to guarantee that the students would be so well educated that the tax base would increase so as to pay back the money with interest they would have an argument, but alas, it sounds like OEA has not done their homework when it comes to the bailout payback requirements. Oh, and the Federal government gets to own part of the bank. Does OEA want the federal government to own the schools and be able to dictate who stays, who goes and what the teachers must do and say in their classrooms daily. That was also part of the bank bailout.

  • J.R.

    Hot R,
    There is more to the concept of priorities regarding state and local taxpayer supported services that some people might not like so well such as:

    Most crucial services first
    least necessary services last
    most effective employees are retained(regardless of time served).
    Least effective employees are dismissed(contracts will need to be renegotiated and we need to be prepared to make use of the talented people who are currently unemployed). People need to keep this central fact in mind at all times “it’s far too easy to be generous with other peoples money, and it is way past time to put a stop to it”.

  • J.R.

    Catherine,
    Generally what people “say”, and what they “do” are two different things. The teachers union has its own agenda, and all you need do is watch them in action to see what is most important to them(hint: it’s not kids).

  • Jack Gerson

    This is to Catherine, who asserts that “the vast majority of the Bank Bailout money has been repaid with interest.” Please, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the TARP funding was anything more than a small part of the federal giveaway to Wall Street. The VAST MAJORITY of the bailout money was in non-TARP funds, and most of that came from the Federal Reserve Bank on its own initiative.

    Actually, the banks still have not repaid a full $2 trillion. That’s about the same amount as the total debt of all states, counties, municipalities in the U.S. combined, including the unfunded liabilities of all public employee pension plans. This isn’t exactly a secret, but the mainstream media usually focuses only on the TARP. Anyway, don’t take my word for it. Here’s a link where you’ll find a breakdown of the total bailout:

    http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Total_Wall_Street_Bailout_Cost

    Do a quick calculation of how much money the banks make on the trillions they’ve been loaned. It’s in the hundreds of billions of dollars. And funny thing, they’ve given out record bonuses in the past two years of economic slump that they triggered, while public programs have been cut and unemployment has soared.

  • Gordon Danning

    Jack:

    Catherine’s main point remains valid: The bailout of companies is, in fact, supposed to be paid back, or earned back. According to NPR, a little less than 1/2 has been recouped. http://marketplace.publicradio.org/features/bailout-follow-the-money/

    More importantly, SCHOOLS DID GET A BAILOUT — that was what the fiscal stimulus plan was all about. Oakland High still has some stimulus money that it needs to spend, and there was an article in today’s Chron about stimulus money being used to fund school health centers, including at several schools in Oakland.

    Moreover, much of the “bailout” money was “spent” by the Federal Reserve, which obviously cannot give money to schools; the Fed can deal only with financial institutions. Would schools REALLY be better off if the Fed had fiddled while Rome burned, as they did at the beginning of the Great Depression?

    OEA should spend its time and efforts (and my union dues) on more effective lobbying than this. Eg: working to promote a state tax increase to fund schools, etc. That might accomplish something; this bank protest is just a feel-good exercise.

  • Tom Thurston

    The institutions that haven’t payed back their bailout money are Ginnie Mae, Freddie Mac and several smaller banks that are still in trouble. The big banks have all payed their money back, as has GM. AIG payed back their loan last week. The Fed still needs to divest the AIG stock, but it looks like they’ll make a profit, as they did with CitiBank.
    The big commercial banks were conscientious about paying their money back. The protesters are saying, “We would like to be excused from paying our money back.” Oakland Unified’s financial trouble was not in any way caused by the commercial banks. People are mad at the big banks so the teachers find it convenient to blame their problems on them. Is this the kind of shoddy thinking they are inflicting on their students? Do we accept such scapegoating from our teachers?

    The teachers are diverting attention from their own day of reckoning. We need a system of merit based employment for teachers. Also teachers will not be spared the re-adjustment of retiree pension and health care benefits that governments can no longer afford. Are the teachers really more concerned with political gamesmanship than about critical thinking?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Gordon:

    The management of OUSD couldn’t make payroll, and couldn’t borrow, resulted in the District giving management over to the State. The State management obtained a $100 million line of credit from private banks for the State take-over management to make payroll.

    The line of credit was in theory used to not only make payroll but to make changes in the District’s financial systems to reform the system so that it could make payroll in the future.

    Unfortunately, Eli Broad trained management used the District to implement its concept of how to run an urban district and returning the District to solvency was not a priority.

    What seems unfair is that the State take-over management spent the $100 million line of credit but was not held responsible for mismanagement adding to the problems.

    While managing the District the State was responsible for millions in State Ed Code non-compliance issues uncovered by State audits. The State in effect was making money off not solving the problems audits uncovered. It also ignored the problems with mishandling of cash and left the District $15 million in additonal debt.

    Superintendent Chaconas was held accountable for the debt by being fired. The Teachers were to pressured to accept a pay cut or worse under take-over law. And, all students until 2023 were held accountable for paying down the $100 million credit line.

    Is it not surprising that some would feel that mismanagement should be managements’ and not teachers’ and students’ responsibility?

    The juxtaposing how bank bailouts were handled, and how the OUSD take-over was handled deserves attention. I support those OEA Members that want to bring that comparison to the public’s attention.

    And, as education under the California Constitution is a responsibility of the State and the State is responsible for providing its citizens (including children) the equal protection of the law, I would support a law suit that makes frees future OUSD students from having to pay for the mistakes of management and not provide an equal education opportunity for all of California’s students.

    Supporting the Bank action does not preclude your idea of lobbying for increased State funding. But, any such funding received will be diluted of course by the existing debt created by former administrations of the District and by the administration of the State.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Gordon Danning

    Jim: I don’t get what that has to do with the original story, nor with the bailout.

    ToM: GM has not paid back their bailout yet. “(Reuters) – General Motors Co GM.UL is determined to pay back taxpayers as quickly as possible, but the process could take “several years,” GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson said on Thursday [Sept 16, 2010].” http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68F2NB20100916

  • http://realschoolreform.net Craig Gordon

    Gordon – This action, and hopefully similar ones to come, includes what you and I want: a demand for increased taxes to support education — progressive taxation on corporations, not more taxes for the middle and working class. History (including very recent history) shows that it takes a lot more than lobbying legislators to make that happen.

    Public pressure like the kind of campaign this one could become, if you and others join it, pressure not just on politicians but corporate powers, could begin to shift things in our direction. That kind of pressure requires grassroots, public action. This particular one took very little of your hard-earned dues (though CTA/NEA’s lobbying operation takes a huge amount), just the extremely hard work of a few activists who also happen to teach just like you do. The effort will only prove to be futile (though it won’t “feel good”), if our members and others stand on the sidelines instead of joining it. The labor movement–like any other movement–is not a pay-for-service opeeration. You have to show up.

    Check out oaklandea.org or call (510) 763-4020 to get involved.

    Craig Gordon

  • Gordon Danning

    Craig:

    Who said anything about lobbying legislators? We have an initiative process in this state. Time and effort spend on feel-good pseudo-PR stunts should be spent collecting signature, registering voters, etc.

  • Leslie Marks

    First I want to applaud the OEA for taking public action. I plan to be with you at the courthouse steps on Friday!

    I get sick to my stomache when I read these posts and one ignoramous makes comments like the bank has paid us back. You must not have a BRAIN in your scull. The WORLD ECONOMY is suffering as the direct result of a few GREEDY wall street banks HERE in the USA – NOT over seas. The mortgage crisis was started by the banks and should END with the banks either FAILING or being regulated. I for one will NOT be paying higher taxes so the slimy ass banks can have a reserve at their fingertips to steal f rom use whenever they want. The banks do not have standing to foreclose on the majority of homes in foreclosure for the BANKS negligence in processing the paper work properly. The are NOT caring for blighted properties. I was unlawfully evicted from my house and I continue to fight to get it back from the SCUM. I will call the number posted by craig gordon, I will be involved.

    People who don’t know what is REALLY going on and the Bank’s role in this entire mess, should keep their comments to themselves untill they educated themselves on these matters.

  • Leslie Marks

    First I want to applaud the OEA for taking public action. I plan to be with you at the courthouse steps on Friday!

    I get sick to my stomache when I read these posts and one ignoramous makes comments like the bank has paid us back. You must not have a BRAIN in your scull. The WORLD ECONOMY is suffering as a direct result of a few GREEDY wall street banks HERE in the USA – NOT over seas. The mortgage crisis was started by the banks and should END with the banks either FAILING or being regulated. I for one will NOT be paying higher taxes so the slimy ass banks can have a reserve of my tax dollars at their fingertips to steal from us whenever they want. The banks do not have standing to foreclose on the majority of homes in foreclosure because of the BANKS negligence in processing the paperwork properly. The BANKS are NOT caring for blighted properties. I was unlawfully evicted from my house and I continue to fight to get it back from the SCUM. I will call the number posted by Craig Gordon, I will be involved.

    People who don’t know what is REALLY going on and the Bank’s role in this entire mess, should keep their comments to themselves until they educated themselves on these matters.