This post was written by Nathan Riding from Washington CAN!
The summer of 2010 will long be remembered for the worst environmental disaster in history of our country. The BP oil spill killed eleven men, countless animals, birds, and fish, and destroyed the economic livelihoods of thousands of people. The long-term impact of the BP disaster is not yet fully known, but it will play out for years and years to come. For many, the BP disaster is just another event in a string of events sounding the alarm that something is terribly wrong in our country, and it’s affecting the lives of millions of people.
You or someone you know may have lost a pension, a job, health coverage, or a home over the last two years due to the collapse of the housing bubble and massive negligence by the big banks. The nation’s worst economic disaster since the Great Depression has played out in the wake of the housing collapse and there is no end in sight to the suffering for working families.
NWFCO affiliate Washington CAN! believes that unchecked corporate power is one of the biggest threats to the well-being of our families, communities, and nation. For three decades we have seen an erosion of regulations that protect everyday Americans from the worst faces of corporate greed. As a result we have seen the explosion of the private detention industry, health insurance companies who profit by excluding the sick, predatory lending that has led to the largest-ever transfer of wealth from people of color and the poor to the wealthiest few, an erosion of the rights of workers to organize for living wages and benefits, and the collapse of our economy due to unchecked and risky behavior of financial institutions.
Big oil, big insurance, and big banks have unimaginable wealth that they are using it to steer public policy toward an unsustainable, short-sighted trajectory that benefits only the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and working poor.
Washington CAN! has made challenging corporate power one of our top priorities. During the month of August 2010, we helped plan, execute, and participate in eight direct actions to raise awareness among people and elected officials about the abuse of corporate power. Washington CAN! members and friends challenged our elected officials to stand with consumers, not corporations.
Washington CAN! and allies took on the big banks at three separate actions, challenging them to give back the $67 million in tax breaks they lobbied successfully for in Olympia while thousands of vital state services are cut and state employees are laid off of work. We also collected close to 900 pledges from small businesses, institutions, and individuals to move their money–totaling over $5 million–out of the big banks.
Early on a Saturday morning, Washington CAN! assembled 150 people in downtown Seattle to speak up at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners convention and support U.S. state insurance commissioners as they decided to pass strict rules regarding the implementation of health care reform on health insurance companies in the midst of nearly 1,000 insurance industry lobbyists. We passed out “lobbyist disinfectant kits” to protect commissioners from the lobbyist infestation and “dirty tricks” throughout the convention center and meeting areas. The work paid off, and the commissioners recommended stringent regulations to hold insurance companies accountable.
August was a month filled with actions and events including:
- Allies at Unite HERE lead an action to force the Marriott corporation to deliver on its promise of bringing good wages and working conditions to hotel workers. If Marriott does so, they could benefit from tax breaks from the city and prime real estate in downtown Tacoma to build a new hotel.
- MoveOn.org and friends held a concert and rally at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle to shine a light on campaign finance reform and the need to reclaim our government from corporations.
- Our friends with the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans celebrated the 75th anniversary of Social Security with Senator Patty Murray and talked about how we can combat the threats from those that want to destroy the system through privatization.
- Washington business owners, including three leaders from Main Street Alliance of Washington, sat down with President Obama to discuss the challenges small business owners are facing in these rough economic times. They discussed the role the government can play in helping small businesses get loans to expand their businesses so they can hire new workers and get our economy working again.
Washington CAN! will continue workign to ensure that pro-consumer, anti-corporate power candidates are elected to office in the upcoming general election this fall and, as the largest consumer advocacy organization in Washington state, will continue fighting on behalf of working families.
To get involved in the work Washington CAN is doing, visit: http://www.washingtoncan.org/wordpress