You can tell you’ve hit a nerve with Wells Fargo when…

… they reply to your newspaper ad with a 700-word letter trying to debunk it.

Last week, top Wells Fargo official Marta Codina submitted a letter to El Enfoque newspaper saying that “Wells Fargo & Company does not hold shares in any of the two private prison companies mentioned by the activist groups” and “it is regrettable that groups that defend certain causes issue mistaken opinions about us to push a political or social agenda.”

Plain and simple, they are worried about the effect that Iowa CCI’s organizing will have on the Latino community – a market which they largely control here in Iowa.

They’ve held staff meetings with local branches on how to respond to our members and gritted their teeth when members moved their money from Wells Fargo.

We replied to set the facts straight, publicly, once and for all.  Will Wells Fargo respond?  Who knows, but its fun to have a little back and forth with one of the biggest banks in the country. In the meantime, we keep organizing and building power.

Our response in El Enfoque:

 As readers of this newspaper have noticed, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has been working with our members and other community members to educate them on their financial options and encourage them to move their money to a bank or credit union that does not profit from the suffering of immigrant families, specifically moving their money from Wells Fargo.

 

Last week, Marta Codina from Wells Fargo tried to pacify those who are starting to realize that Wells Fargo profits from private prisons and does not have their best interests at heart.  She accused us of using misleading facts and pushing a political and social agenda.  Well, we do have an agenda.  Our agenda is worker and immigrant rights and dignity for all people.  Our agenda is a fair economy that works for everyone, not only the 1% and big banks that continue to get rich from the work of others.  We know that many people in the community feel the same and we continue to unite the community and demand justice for everyone.

 

Now many people are probably wondering about the facts.  Does Wells Fargo invest in the private prison company GEO Group or not?  The answer is that Wells Fargo misled you in its response.  Here is what we know:

 

According to documents that GEO Group filed on March 13, 2012 with the Securities and Exchange Commission: “Wells Fargo & Company reported that, as of December 31, 2011, it beneficially owned 4,446,026 shares with sole voting power over 4,398,614 of such shares, shared voting power over 794 of such shares, sole dispositive power over 4,300,251 of such shares and shared dispositive power over 80 of such shares.” On March 31, 2012, Wells Fargo reported they held 7.7% of all GEO shares, making them the third largest shareholder.

 

In addition to the stocks that Wells Fargo & Company own, Wells Fargo Advantage mutual funds separately controls over 2,815,200 shares in GEO Group. Wells Fargo Advantage administers those stocks for mutual fund holders, but the individuals don’t get to decide where they invest their money – Wells Fargo does.  It is Wells Fargo’s decision to have the mutual funds invested in GEO Group.

 

What does this mean?  It means that according to GEO Group, Wells Fargo has voting authority over the majority of its shares and the power to dispose of (or get rid of) the majority of its shares.  So, when Wells Fargo says they do not own shares in GEO Group, or that “Wells Fargo Advantage” actually owns everything and administers these shares on behalf of invisible third parties, either they are confused or GEO Group is, or they are simply attempting to mislead all of us.  Here’s what we say to Wells Fargo: It’s your name on the stock – get rid of it!

 

In addition to their investments in private prisons, Wells Fargo has discrimination problems.  In 2011, Wells Fargo was fined $85 million by the Federal Reserve after the Fed determined that Wells Fargo had intentionally pushed people of color with good credit into expensive mortgages and falsified loan applications during the sub-prime mortgage boom. This is the largest consumer lending fine the Federal Reserve has ever issued.  Wells Fargo is also under investigation by the Department of Justice, and was sued by the cities of Baltimore and Memphis. In all cases, Wells Fargo denies wrongdoing, preferring to settle out of court and sweep the wrongdoing under the rug.

 

Wells Fargo pushes products onto its customers, wanting to make as much money as possible through questionable insurance, unfair fees, and confusing charges for even having an account.  A member of ours purchased insurance though their Wells Fargo account and paid $40 a month.  When they needed to use the insurance they couldn’t because they did not have immigration documents.  Why did Wells Fargo sell them that insurance in the first place?

 

Wells Fargo is not hurting – in fact they are making more money than ever before.  In just January, February, and March of this year, they made $4.2 BILLION in profits.  Their CEO John Stumpf made over $19 million in 2011. They can divest in private prisons, stop their predatory practices and still make gigantic profits.

 

We hope that this clears up any doubts you may have about the actions of Iowa CCI members in the past weeks.  If you would like to close your Wells Fargo account we can help connect you with community banks and credit unions that accept Matricula ID, just call us at 515-282-0484.

 

We are not against friends and family who work at Wells Fargo, but we will continue to question the damaging policies that come from the CEO and other high ranking officials.  We call on Wells Fargo to divest, dispose of their shares in GEO Group as a signal that they will listen to their clients and the community and do the right thing.

 

We thank everyone who has contacted us about this issue and we will continue to be a voice for immigrant and worker justice.  We are not afraid.  Join the cause!

 

Learn More

  • Interested in moving your money? Read more.
  • Click here to read more on our work to hold Wells Fargo accountable.

Join the Fight

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates.
  • Follow us on Facebook and  Twitter for more fun photos and live action updates.

 

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You should have seen the smiles on the faces of the six CCI members who proudly closed their Wells Fargo accounts this morning. And, those of the three dozen others there to cheer them on. It was a fun action!

Members moved their money and closed $30,000 in accounts in protest of Wells Fargo’s investment in private prisons, financing of payday lenders and factory farms, and the bank’s questionable lending practices leading up to the financial crisis.

“Wells Fargo has taken money from our community, and given back pain,” said CCI member Gloria Aguilar, who closed a Home Equity Line of Credit, “I will not do business with Wells Fargo until they change their practices and put people before profits.”

Aguilar and other Latino members of Iowa CCI singled out Wells Fargo’s relationship with GEO Group, one of the largest private prisons in the country. According to the GEO Group’s proxy statement dated March 23, 2012, “Wells Fargo & Company reported that, as of December 31, 2011, it beneficially owned 4,446,026 shares with sole voting power over 4,398,614 of such shares, shared voting power over 794 of such shares, sole dispositive power over 4,300,251 of such shares and shared dispositive power over 80 of such shares.”

“Private prisons make money by tearing families apart, and it’s wrong for Wells Fargo to be helping them out” Aguilar said, “all we’ve heard from Wells Fargo is ‘no!’ and we’re here today to tell Wells that we’ll be saying ‘no’ to them until they change their ways.”

Iowa CCI will continue to encourage Wells Fargo customers across Iowa to close their accounts until the bank pledges to stop engaging in activities that profit at the expense of everyday people. Our efforts are part of a national big bank Move Our Money campaign.

Here are pictures from today’s action:

Created with flickr slideshow.

Learn More

  • Interested in moving your money? Read more.
  • Click here to read more on our work to hold Wells Fargo accountable.

Join the Fight

    • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
    • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates.
    • Follow us on Facebook and  Twitter for more fun photos and live action updates.

     

    Click LIKE and TWEET to give Gloria, Amalia, Martina, Victor, Jess & Vanessa a virtual high five for moving their money!

 

Wells Fargo employees are having meetings about us. Yes, we are starting to get under their skin.

A  member from Marshalltown, Maria Alvarez, called and reported on her interaction with the branch manager when she closed her Wells Fargo account because of their investments in private prisons, predatory lending, and giant executive bonuses.

The manager was angry at her and angry at CCI that we had published an advertisement in the Spanish weekly newspaper (photo), El Enfoque, calling on the Latino community to move their money. He said the allegations about Wells Fargo’s investments in private prisons are lies and people are uninformed.

He also told her that there was a meeting of all employees at their branch to train them on how to respond to people raising the issue of Wells Fargo’s relationship with private prisons!  They had seen our ad in the newspaper and a lot of people are talking about it.  He told Maria that some women asked him to prove that Wells Fargo was not investing in private prisons, and another man who said he was from Latinos en Accion de CCI came and closed his account last week!

Maria, armed with CCI’s facts, laid it all out: Wells Fargo is the #3 investor in GEO Group, the second largest private prison company in the nation, with 4.7 million shares.  Wells Fargo has a significant financial stake in private prisons, not just a couple of shares. And between March 2011 and March 2012 they added over 800,000 shares. Not to mention that they finance factory farms, pay day lenders, and were sued for discriminatory lending.

The private prison industry contracts with federal and state governments to manage jails and have specifically targeted immigrant detention as an area where they can increase their profits.  Prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) sat on ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task force which wrote Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill that passed in 2010.  Since then, copies of the law have been lobbied for and passed in more states around the country so that companies like GEO Group and CCA increase their profits from the suffering of immigrant families.  Organizations around the country are calling on Wells Fargo to divest from private prisons, but so far we have received a resounding NO.

Maria made sure to communicate that that she is not against him or other Wells Fargo branch workers, but the CEO John Stumpf and bank presidents who get giant bonuses and set the policies that value profit over people.

 

Join the Fight

Can you support our “Move our Money” team and join us for an action this Friday, June 15?

For more information on how to move your money, call Iowa CCI at 515-282-0484.

Like and Share the good news that Wells Fargo is feeling the heat!

CCI members Elvira Guerrero and Nataly Espinosa had the opportunity to participate in a Latino Leaders Roundtable with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis held at the United Way in Des Moines last Friday.

The meeting focused on listening to concerns and questions from Latino leaders who are in touch with the Latino workforce every day.

Elvira and Nataly told Secretary Solis that we have been working closely with the Dept. of Labor’s wage & hour division since 2010 through our organizing to tackle wage theft – including recovering more than $130K in wages for workers. We acknowledged DOL’s good work and asked Secretary Solis to consider allocating more resources to the DOL’s district office in Iowa.

We also told her that discrimination at the workplace targeting Latinos is still a serious problem, especially with the emergence of “English-only” rules imposed by some workers, which violates Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act.

Solis commended our work and said to keep coming forth with these issues, as this is the only way we can keep solving them.

Photo: Elvira, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Nataly.

 

 

This morning, two members of our worker justice program were each awarded $5,000, for a total of $10,000, in wage claims and liquidative damages by a Polk County small claims judge.

The wage claim case, prosecuted by Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), sought to retrieve $6,166 in wages stolen by Concept Painting & Drywall, owned by Randy Warrens.

Iowa CCI organized with the two workers and used many avenues before IWD brought the case before a judge.  We delivered a letter to Randy Warrens at his house in January asking for a meeting, which Randy refused.  We met with the general contractor on the case, Hubbell Homes, after which they told Randy to stop making his problem their problem. And we brought up the Concept Painting & Drywall case with the Commissioner of Labor Michael Mauro in a meeting in February.

Despite having met yesterday with IWD’s prosecuting attorney Mitchell Mahan, and speaking with him this morning, Warrens failed to appear at today’s hearing. The judge examined the evidence and claims brought by the workers and IWD. In addition to the evidence, seeing that Warrens defaulted on the hearing, the judge concluded that each of the workers should be awarded the sum of $5,000 for liquidative damages. Warrens will also be responsible for all court fees.

“With this victory, employers like Randy will know that workers are not just going to sit down and take abuse,” said Jose, one of the affected workers and an Iowa CCI member. “We will not accept anything other than justice.”

Though it is possible that Concept Painting & Drywall may set aside the default, the judge seemed convinced in standing for worker justice and awarding the workers for their rightful claims.

This win shows that the one-two punch of community organizing and a government that works for people will deliver justice!

Iowa CCI’s worker justice program unites and empowers the community to stand against worker abuse and fight for what’s right. CCI members incessantly work against violations on the job and wage theft. To this day, Iowa CCI has recovered over $135,000 in stolen wages across Iowa.

 

Click “LIKE” and “SHARE” to spread the good news and stand for worker justice!

 

Salvador Lara’s story has been gaining attention throughout the state with several newspaper articles and hundreds of phone calls and letters on his behalf.  It has brought attention the dark side of President Obama’s immigration program “Secure Communities” and the need for the DREAM Act and humane immigration reform.

Two newspapers ran feature articles:

Times Republican: Support for Salvador: Friends back MHS grad facing deportation

Des Moines Register: Scores in Marshalltown back illegal immigrant who faces big price for a small crime

The Des Moines Register wrote a great staff editorial:

[box] People like Lara show need for reform

He came to U.S. as a child but now faces deportation

Salvador Lara was 14 when his sister brought him to Iowa from the streets of Mexico City.

He didn’t realize he was here illegally. Even children who do understand their immigration status likely don’t understand the implications for the future.

They attend school and play sports and earn money mowing lawns. They go about the business of childhood just like their peers. Then they grow up. And things get more complicated.

You need to prove your identity to move forward in life. Without proper documentation, like a Social Security card or birth certificate, you cannot get some jobs or a driver’s permit or financial aid for college. You realize you have to lie to build any kind of normal life. You tolerate being wronged by landlords or employers or neighbors because you don’t want to come to anyone’s attention.

Though you consider the United States your home, you are forced to live in the shadows as an adult. The fear of deportation always hangs over your head.

Salvador Lara, now 25, has lived in Marshalltown since coming to the U.S.. He is now in the Marshall County Jail facing deportation to Mexico.

His story, recently detailed on the front page of The Des Moines Register, is yet another example of the devastation caused by this country’s immigration laws and Congress’ refusal to enact reform.

Changing immigration law isn’t only about providing people a legal way to enter the United States and work. It’s not just about patrolling the border to catch those sneaking across. It’s about creating a path for people brought to this country illegally as children to gain legal status and remain.

Many Washington lawmakers say they sympathize with people like Lara. Unfortunately, they don’t support policies to help them. The U.S. government has, in some ways, made matters worse with initiatives like Secure Communities.

The program allows police to compare the fingerprints of people in local jails against a federal immigration database. Public support is widespread when people with extensive criminal records are nabbed.

But Lara wasn’t a felon. He didn’t have a lengthy record. Instead, he was charged with fifth-degree theft after he picked up and kept a money bag that he found in a parking lot.

He was fined $85. But he was snared by the Secure Communities program. Now he waits to join the nearly 170,000 other people in this country who have been deported since the program’s inception.

More than 150 people in Marshalltown have written letters or called immigration authorities on Lara’s behalf. His high school teachers remember him as a leader dedicated to learning English. He’s been a soccer coach and a caregiver for a dying family member and has worked in restaurants.

He said he refused to buy fake papers to help him get a job in a meatpacking plant because he didn’t want to steal anyone’s identity. “If you’re going to commit a crime to get a job, I’d rather not do it,” he said.

Being deported means he will have to leave his family and the country he knows best and go back to Mexico, where he says he doesn’t have family.

Lara is not a bad person. He is yet another example of why humane and sensible immigration reform is overdue.

– Des Moines Register Staff Editorial, March 2, 2012 [/box]

 

Pass these stories on to your friends and family! They are good examples of why we need human immigration reform, not unforgiving enforcement-only programs.