On Human Rights Day 2010, December 10th, NFWM and YAYA organized 15 actions at JP Morgan Chase Bank locations in California and Florida in support of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s (FLOC) campaign to gain justice for tobacco farm workers. NFWM supporters leafleted at bank branches and spoke to branch managers, asking them to let the corporate office know that we were there.
These actions were part of a bigger day of actions organized by the Coalition Against Bank Greed and Exploitation. Actions were held at nearly 130 Chase Bank locations in 22 states.
The actions called on Chase to arrange a meeting between the FLOC and Reynolds Tobacco to address conditions in the fields and labor camps. Chase is the lead bank in a group of lenders that provide Reynolds with $489 million in credit, and so far Chase has been unwilling to intervene with Reynolds on behalf of the farm workers. The leafleting action also called on Chase, which has more home loans in foreclosure than any other bank, to declare a nation-wide moratorium on home foreclosures until an independent committee of community leaders certifies the fairness of the process.
Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC President, thanks all of FLOC’s supporters for their assistance with these actions. Another action at Chase is being planned for the near future. The National Farm Worker Ministry, YAYA, the AFL-CIO Central Labor Councils, People Before Banks, the Teamsters Union, the UAW, the UFW and other community allies helped make this day of action a success.
Following are a couple of reports from the day; and a photo of NFWM Board President, Felix Garza, at a Chase action in Louisville, KY.
From the Daly City, CA, action, Carolyn Jaramillo, NFWM Board member representing the Loretto Community, sent this report.
The leafleting was very encouraging and even a little fun. Maria Brann, (85 year old Loretto Comember) and I started handing out leaflets in front of Chase Bank on Gellert St. in Daly City about 11:30a. There was a steady stream of customers most of whom took a flyer and said something like “I don’t like this bank anyway…., “Thanks for doing this….” After 15 minutes had gone by, one customer came out and stood next to me and talked very quietly. He said, “You have caused quite a bit of concern with the employees in there.” I replied that I didn’t want to cause any trouble for anyone, and that I would explain our presence to the manager. When Maria and I went inside, everyone became very quiet and stared at us. We asked to speak to the manager. When he came out, we could see this young man was very nervous. I introduced myself as a member of the NFWM Board. He immediately and nervously explained he didn’t know anything about any of these connections with farm workers. He said he had already put in a call to his boss when nervous employees informed him that customers were reading these flyers. He was very apologetic saying several times he didn’t know anything about farm workers. He made me a copy of “Why We Protest Chase Bank Fact Sheet” and promised to fax it and a flyer to the Chase Marketing Department.
NFWM Board member Suzanne Darweesh and four other supporters from the Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farm Workers leafleted outside of the Orange, CA Chase bank branch.
Here is some of what Suzanne Darweesh reported:
Most people were very receptive to accepting the fact sheet or flyer. Only a small minority passed us by. We had enough people to staff both entrances to the parking lot. When two of us entered the bank to hand a fact sheet to the manager and ask her to FAX it to the Chase Head of Strategy and Marketing. When she saw us coming, she jumped out of her chair, meeting us half-way, to tell us she couldn’t talk with us now and she wanted us to leave the bank.