Seattle protest takes on Chase

By Steve Leigh

SEATTLE--More than 200 members and supporters of Working Washington, a coalition of several unions and community groups, rallied and marched against Chase Bank on September 21.

Chase is a target of the campaign against corporate greed for several reasons: When it bought out Washington Mutual during the financial crisis, it laid off thousands of workers. It took over tax breaks that Washington Mutual used to have as a local financial institution, even though Chase is multinational bank.

Chase receives other subsidies from the state of Washington, including being paid extra every time recipients of state aid use their state-provided debit card. And it, along with the other major banks like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, received massive federal bailouts.

Most importantly, Chase, along with the other members of Association of Washington Business (AWB), is lobbying to keep its taxes low while the state government savagely cuts social programs and education.

The rally circled an intersection outside the bank and blocked traffic for nearly an hour, with protesters chanting loudly and energetically. Activists passed out hundreds of leaflets explaining the case against Chase. Passersby were mostly very supportive and often stayed to watch. At the end, a dozen people were arrested for committing civil disobedience by sitting down in the intersection.

This action was part of a set of "echo actions" organized around the state to coincide with a major two-day demonstration against the AWB's convention taking place September 21 through 22 in eastern Washington.

The AWB, the Washington arm of the Chamber of Commerce, is meeting to strategize about continuing to dominate the legislature's budget plans and to keep its taxes low. Washington State has no corporate or other income tax and has the most regressive taxes in the U.S. Low taxes on the rich and corporations and budget cuts for workers and the poor are the norm in Washington state, with thousands of teachers and other state and local workers losing jobs.

Christine Gregoire, Washington's Democratic governor, had planned to be a keynote speaker at the AWB convention--though activists hoped to keep her from crossing their picket line.

Working Washington promises many other future actions in its continuing campaign against corporate greed.