Big banks are financing one of the greatest wealth-stripping schemes of our time.

Watch this video made by CCI ally National People’s Action to learn more, then take action!

Like it? Please share it with your friends!

In early November, CCI members took part in a national call-in day of action to stop the big banks from financing one of the greatest wealth-stripping schemes of our time: payday lending.

CCI member, and fourth-generation family farmer and nurse from rural Iowa, Barb Kalbach shared how her call went:

Last week I called the offices of Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan to tell him to stop financing payday lenders.

I talked to a young man in Moynihan’s office and told him that I thought payday lending was an outrageous, predatory practice, and if Bank of America was serious about investing in communities they would get out of the business completely.

I told him that I live near Creston, IA, a small town of about 5,000 people that has a community college, a large nursing home, and three payday lenders.

Now, why in the world would a town of just 5,000 people need three payday lenders?  In this case, I believe it is because they are targeting the students and aging population of Creston.  They are preying on people who might fall into a desperate situation and making people poor.  Every year in Iowa nearly $40 million leaves our cash-strapped state in fees to out of state payday lending corporations.

I told that young man in Moynihan’s office that there’s no other way to describe what these payday lenders are doing except to call it disgusting.  I told him that as long as Bank of America continued to finance payday lenders, I wasn’t going to be doing any business with Bank of America.

To be a huge bank, to take from the poor in such a shady way, is just so unethical.  I told them they should be doing something positive – take that money and invest in communities.  Bring that money back to places like Creston, a community that could really use some fresh development.

If you feel the same way as Barb or have your own story to share, make your call today.

A Fair Day’s Pay: The Movement to End Wage Theft


Iowa CCI’s wage theft organizing campaign gets a brief mention on page 20 of the Discount Foundation’s new report.

To date Iowa CCI’s organizing to stop wage theft has helped members reclaim $122,000 in stolen wages for 48 workers in central Iowa.

View the report here:

From the Discount Foundation’s website:

Over the last decade, grassroots opposition to Wage Theft has grown dramatically across the country. Wage theft, the illegal underpayment of wages primarily affects the working poor. It is widespread and occurs in various forms and industries. It is estimated that millions of low wage workers annually are not paid at legally required overtime rates, at minimum wages or for total hours worked. In response workers’ rights organizations have engaged in increasingly sophisticated and successful campaigns to strengthen enforcement and make sure that monies due employees are repaid.


In a new report: “A Fair Day’s Pay: The Movement to End Wage Theft”, Nik Theodore, an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, examines over a dozen examples of organizations utilizing innovative tactics to combat this illegal practice. Commissioned by the Discount Foundation, the report reviews a variety of local, state and federal strategies driven by grantee organizations to address violations of employment laws.


Within the next couple of weeks, CCI members are expecting Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to announce a settlement with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers regarding fraudulent foreclosures and bad mortgage servicing. CCI members have been watching this investigation very closely since meeting with AG Miller last year where, in a room full of distressed homeowners from across the country, he promised to get tough and crack down on big banks.

After that meeting though, Miller went silent. Since our meeting last December (2010), rumors and leaks from his investigation have suggested that he was caving to big bank pressure. We learned of several questionable contributions from big bank lawyers, and we called Miller out. We heard he was having talks with the big banks in Washington and Chicago, and CCI members traveled to demand he stand up for struggling Iowans back home.

CCI and a lot of our allies have been putting a tremendous amount of pressure on Miller, the other AGs, and raising expectations time and again. Our message resonated with the Attorneys General in New York, Delaware, California, Minnesota, and Kentucky who all either quit the settlement out of disgust or expressed extreme dissatisfaction with Miller’s handling of the big banks.

But, as we’ve said all along, the proof is going to be in the pudding. We still expect a strong settlement from Miller – one that includes across-the-board, meaningful, sustainable principal reduction that is going to start stabilizing the housing market, restitution for homeowners, and keeps the door open for criminal prosecution.

We’ll keep you posted on updates as we get them, so watch this space!


“When old ladies in Iowa share the same concerns as kids on the street in Manhattan, it’s time those in power took note.”


Read this article online at

by Jonathan Matthew Smucker  posted Oct 18, 2011

Much has been made by some news outlets and pundits about the supposed “incoherence” of the Occupy Wall Street protests. “The protesters” don’t have a coherent message, we are told. They can’t even agree on any solutions. What the heck are they proposing?

This angle is wrong-headed. The strongest and most successful social movements in history have always tapped into multiple concerns that are important to different swaths of society, and often articulated in different ways. It’s not typically the responsibility of a broad movement to propose specific policy solutions—at least not at this stage in the process. It’s on us to create pressure to move society in a direction. When we do that successfully, windows will open to fight for this or that specific change. The bigger a movement we grow, the more pressure we create, the more substantial and meaningful those windows for measurable gains become.

The strongest and most successful social movements in history have always tapped into multiple concerns that are important to different swaths of society.

And historical perspective is not all that’s wrong with the “incoherence” frame. There’s a pretty damn clear coherence to Americans’ anger at Wall Street right now. If it doesn’t upset you that the top 1% is still making record-high profits and paying record-low taxes while the rest of us struggle just to survive, then I don’t know that I’ll be able to explain it to you. But I think most people feel it in their gut. That’s why us being here is resonating with so many people. That’s why this movement is drawing so much attention, and why I think it’s going to continue to gain momentum over time.

The momentum is really starting to spread beyond the “usual suspects.” It’s important to emphasize and encourage this. For example, while coastal occupation actions have drawn the most media attention so far, actions are also happening all across “Middle America,” from Ashland, Kentucky to Dallas, Texas to Ketchum, Idaho.

I just heard a first hand report about four hundred Iowans marching in Des Moines, Iowa as part of the October 15 international day of action. I’m working on the press team here at Occupy Wall Street, and I just got the chance to talk on the phone with Judy Lonning, a 69-year-old retired public school teacher who participated in the Des Moines action today. Here’s what she had to say:

People are suffering here in Iowa. Family farmers are struggling, students face mounting debt and fewer good jobs, and household incomes are plummeting. We’re not willing to keep suffering for Wall Street’s sins. People here are waking up and realizing that we can’t just go to the ballot box. We’re building a movement to make our leaders listen.

Cheers to that.

Jonathan Matthew Smucker wrote this article for Beyond The Choir, a forum for grassroots mobilization.

[Guest editorial by Iowa CCI Executive Director Hugh Espey appeared in the October 10, 2011 Des Moines Register]

There has been a phenomenal outpouring of support across the country in the past week for a tough, tenacious and genuinely populist response to the ongoing economic crisis.

What started as a movement to occupy Wall Street has mushroomed into a national call to action for distressed homeowners, scapegoated union workers, underemployed youth and everyday Americans from all walks of life who have taken a hard look at our political system and economy and realized that they’re not set up to work for us.

The mainstream media and establishment politicos are having a hard time making sense of what is going on, but those of us who have been pushing economic justice and fairness since the 2008 financial crash know what this is: a massive democratic awakening of everyday people ready to fight back against corporate power.

This new Occupy Wall Street movement is happening because everyday people are fed up with business as usual in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street. We’re fed up with the big banks who crashed the economy and don’t pay their fair share of taxes. We’re fed up with a political system that lavishes bailouts, subsidies and kickbacks on big businesses, Wall Street firms and the top 1 percent while the rest of us are struggling to make ends meet.

This nationwide mobilization is happening because 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and millions more have lost their homes. Meanwhile, politicians in Washington are stuck quibbling over cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — ignoring the harsh reality that we would have no deficit if we had single-payer health care and we stopped fighting two wars — and refusing to find real solutions to make Wall Street pay for the mess it caused.

This new populist movement is happening because the corrosive influence of big money in politics has a chokehold on our democracy, and everyday people and hardworking families are ready to stand up and say “enough is enough.” We want an economy that works for everybody and a political system where people matter more, money matters less.

Our political leaders are too busy asking big banks and Wall Street corporations for campaign contributions to push the “put people first” policies that this nation needs. President Barack Obama has failed to issue a moratorium on home foreclosures or push for a financial speculation tax to raise revenue and bring some stability to the financial markets. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has failed to bring the big banks to justice. His 50-state investigation into the national foreclosure crisis is crumbling after the California and New York attorneys general left the coalition because they know the settlement Miller wants lets big banks off the hook.

What the Occupy Wall Street protesters understand — and what Obama and Miller seemingly don’t — is that Wall Street and the top 1 percent are not more important than the other 99 percent of us who work day in and day out to keep this country running. We won’t pay for their crisis. It’s time to put communities before corporations and people before profits.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members are proud to stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping the nation. The time for action is now. These occupations are a good thing. We need more of them, and we need laws and policies that serve everyday people.