Confronting Corporate Power in Chicago
by Will Tanzman
Yesterday, in St. Louis, Peabody Energy became the latest target in this spring’s national Confront Corporate Power campaign. Peabody is notorious for violating workers’ rights, destroying the environment, and demanding tax breaks that hurt the struggling St. Louis public school system. Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), Occupy St. Louis, and other groups got people into Peabody’s shareholders meeting and disrupted the meeting, while a crowd supported them outside.
Across the country, people are coming together in similar actions to hold large corporations accountable at their annual shareholders meetings. Last week, thousands of people (including a delegation from SOUL) disrupted General Electric’s shareholders meeting in Detroit. In 2010, GE paid just 11% of its income in taxes, far below the national corporate tax rate of 35%. Meanwhile, people in our communities are facing cuts to jobs programs, health care, and energy efficiency. Thousands more people targeted Wells Fargo’s shareholders meeting in San Francisco to push the company to stop funding private prisons and to reduce homeowners’ mortgage debt to the actual value of their homes.
These large corporations are at the root of many of the problems affecting our communities, so we need to hold them accountable in order to win on our issues. They are moving jobs to wherever they can pay workers the least, refusing to reduce home mortgage debt and stop foreclosures, lobbying for tax breaks while our communities suffer from budget cuts, and pushing for right-wing legislation like the “stand your ground” law that led to Trayvon Martin’s killing. If we do not fight the increasing concentration of money and power in fewer and fewer hands, things are going to continue to get worse.
On May 23, Confront Corporate Power comes to Chicago with the shareholders meeting of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The CME is one of the most profitable corporations in Illinois but successfully lobbied for $100 million in tax breaks at a time when the state is making cuts to health care and other vital services. We will be meeting at 4:30 p.m. at Daley Plaza. Join us on May 23 to confront corporate power and make Wall Street pay for the crisis they created in our communities!