Move Our Money: Community Groups, Local Governments to Divest Funds from Big Banks With Goal of Moving $1 Billion

A coalition of community activists and others have launched an effort to move $1 billion away from Bank of America and other large financial institutions.

As part of an overall “Move Our Money” campaign encouraging Americans to move their funds out of big Wall Street banks, a coalition of community groups and others has undertaken a campaign to move $1 billion from banks such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo to community banks and credit unions that make small business loans, help create jobs, and invest in the community. 

As part of the launch of The New Bottom Line‘s Move Our Money campaign, clergy with LA Voice PICO representing 30,000 Los Angeles families on Tuesday will divest congregation funds from Bank of America and Wells Fargo. They will call on the Los Angeles City Council to vote on a pending resolution that would require the city to divest from banks that have not cooperated with efforts to prevent foreclosures and other responsible banking measures, according to an announcement by organizers.

“You’re hearing on the street ‘Bank of America is Bad for America.’ Instead of being held accountable for crashing the economy, Bank of America and other Wall Street banks spent millions getting elected officials to rig the system in their favor. Everyday people are doing what politicians have failed to do. We’re going to ‘Move Our Money’ to community banks and credit unions that better reflect our values and support our neighborhoods,” says LeeAnn Hall, executive director of Alliance for a Just Society, an organizational member of The New Bottom Line.

As thousands of people take to the streets to express frustration with Wall Street’s role in crashing the economy — including foreclosing on millions of families, avoiding their fair share of taxes through loopholes and offshore accounts, and cutting back on loans to small businesses that could create jobs — the Move Our Money campaign represents the next step in holding the banks accountable. The campaign has three components. 

  • First, The New Bottom Line is working with congregations, unions, community organizations, and individuals across the country to move their money from the big banks with a goal of taking back $1 billion before the end of the year.  The New Bottom Line is supporting local groups with a toolkit at www.newbottomline.com/move_our_money.
  • Second, The New Bottom Line and its partners are introducing more than 50 resolutions in cities and towns around the country to divest from the big banks and move taxpayer dollars to community banks and credit unions. The New Bottom Line is supporting local groups with a toolkit including sample legislation at www.newbottomline.com/move_our_money. For example, San Jose diverted nearly $1 billion from Bank of America because of a social responsibility policy activists urged the city of San José to create.  
  • Third, working with The Other 98%, The New Bottom Line launched www.moveourmoneyusa.org that allows individuals and community groups to self-organize public events and actions to move money out of the big banks in their community. The website provides tools for creating and promoting events, the how-to’s of putting together a successful action, and a report back form for groups and individuals on the total amount of money moved, with the goal of getting to a total of $1 billion.

“Taxpayer dollars should be used to support taxpayer’s values. Every dollar a city or town moves from a Wall Street bank to a local bank or credit union will help create a new bottom line that means good jobs, healthy communities, and a government that fights for everyday people,” says Gordon Whitman, policy director at PICO National Network, an organizational member of The New Bottom Line.

The community organizations that have already begun work on city or town council legislation include: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment; Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Organization PICO (California); LA Voice PICO (California); Oakland Community Organizations PICO (California); PACT San Jose PICO (California); Colorado Progressive Coalition; Michigan Organizing Collaborative; Neighbors Organizing for Change (Minnesota); CCO Missouri PICO; Brooklyn Congregations United PICO (New York); NY Communities for Change; Oregon Action; Virginia Organizing; and Washington CAN (Washington State).

In addition to filing legislation, momentum for removing individual and organizational funds from the big banks is building from coast to coast. This month, in San Jose, Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church closed its $3 million account with Bank of America because of the bank’s slow pace of modifying loans and other concerns, according to The New Bottom Line. Some 300 Coloradans closed their accounts at Wells Fargo to protest the bank’s continued foreclosures after the robo-signing scandal. In Minneapolis, parents asked the school board to stop banking with several financial institutions because of their record on foreclosures. Charlottesville, VA residents closed their accounts at Wells Fargo citing the bailouts, foreclosures, and corporate money in politics.

“With the energy surrounding Occupy Wall Street, congregations, unions, local governments, and individuals are preparing to move our money into action. Whether you have $20 or your church has $2 million in a big bank, you can make it clear to the bank CEOs that until they serve the bottom line of everyday Americans, they’ll have to do it without our money,” says George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action, an organizational member of The New Bottom Line.

 

Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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