Bailed-Out Bank Helps Stir Business Opposition to EFCA

January 29, 2009

Not only are recipients of the federal bank bailout using some of that money to pay big executive bonuses and to buy corporate jets. Some of them are also using that money – which is really our money – to attack unions and organize business opposition (including soliciting political contributions) against the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to organize.

Political reporter Sam Stein broke the story on Huffington Post on January 27 of an October 17 conference call hosted by Bank of America – an institution UE members know from the Republic Windows struggle. The main speakers on the call were Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, and Rick Berman, anti-union lobbyist and founder of the union-busting propaganda outlet, Center for Union Facts. The focus of the call was to convince business people to contribute heavily to anti-union political fronts and to politicians who oppose EFCA. Participants in the call included an official from at least one other bailout recipient, American International Group (AIG).

Bank of America received $25 billion in last fall’s federal bailout of the financial industry. AIG received a combined $100 billion from the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve. reports that several public interest groups are demanding a Congressional investigation into whether bailout funds from taxpayers are being used as political contributions and to fund the big business anti-union campaign against EFCA.

Five major good-government groups – Public Citizen, Public Campaign, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Change Congress and Democracy Matters – sent a letter to congressional leaders on January 28 expressing shock that that “Bank of America hosted a call in which political activists and business officials were urged to funnel millions of dollars of political contributions to vulnerable members of Congress so they would vote against Employee Free Choice Act.” The letter pointed out that, “This influence-peddling session took place three days after Bank of America received $25 billion in federal bailout funds."

The groups called on Congress “to investigate whether Bank of America, AIG, or other recipients of billions in bailout money used taxpayer dollars to send ‘large contributions’ to any political organizations.”

The hatred of unions expressed on this conference call is extreme. “If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election… they should be shot. They should be thrown out of their g__d___ jobs,” says Bernie Marcus. At another point the billionaire predicts the end of “civilization” if workers are able to join unions: “This is the demise of a civilization. This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I’m watching this happen and I don’t believe it.”

Earlier in the call Marcus offered another threat against executives who aren't doing enough to defeat EFCA: “As a shareholder, if I knew the CEO of the company wasn’t doing anything on [EFCA]... I would sue the son of a b____ ...I’m so angry at some of these CEOs, I can’t even believe the stupidity that is involved here.”

Whether Bank of America and AIG have used bailout money to donate to anti-union politicians and groups is not yet clear. But it is clear, Stein writes, that Bank of America used “time and resources to host the anti-EFCA forum, on which individuals were urged to make political donations.” It's also clear that taxpayer-subsidized AIG devoted resources to participating in that forum.


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