Looks like Pink Martini, Storm Large and the MarchFourth Marching Band aren't the only Portland musicians rallying in support of some of the Occupy movement's biggest platforms. Today I received an email from Portland percussionist/visual artist extraordinaire Rachel Blumberg that she had formed a brand new supergroup—one that will probably never play a show (though we should probably encourage the Move Your Money group to get an actual band together).
Taking cues from Farm Aid and We Are The World—only on a slightly smaller scale—Blumberg has joined with Quasi's Sam Coomes, STLS/Kickball drummer Lisa Schonberg and drummer/songwriter Neal Morgan in a coalition of voices encouraging people in the local music community to stop using big banks.
Why target musicians? The group explains in its press release: "Traditionally, many touring bands have held their noses and banked with bigger banks because of the accessibility of ATMs and branches across the country, but some credit unions take part in a co-op network that allows greater banking options while on the road, and some local banks cover ATM fee charges."
The group has built a website, moveyourmoneyportand.com
, where members of the local music community can pledge to remove their money from the big boys and put it into a local bank or credit union (not that working musicians generally have a lot of money in savings—but every dollar counts, right?). Venues like Doug Fir and Valentine's; bands like The Thermals and Deelay Ceelay; And labels like Kill Rock Stars and Marriage have pledged to make the switch (or were already on board with a local bank or credit union).
The Move Your Money Project is, of course, operating on a national scale
, and November 5 is being touted nationwide as "Move Your Money Day." But these four want you to go ahead and get a head start.
The collective's full press release, along with some stats that would be shocking if we didn't see so many shocking stats these days, are below the picture of their slightly nervous faces:
Portland musicians Rachel Blumberg, Sam Coomes, Neal Morgan, and Lisa Schonberg have formed a working group to encourage local musicians and music-related businesses to remove their money from Bank of America, Citi, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase and begin banking with a clear conscience at a credit union or local bank.
Please read the enclosed letter for full information.
The working group formed shortly after the first march and assembly of the roughly 10,000 Occupy Portland demonstrators on October 6 following a discussion about what concrete steps they and others could take to help right an economic and political system in America that is increasingly shaped by the shortsightedness, recklessness, and greed of the me-first, country-second elites and their government cronies at the expense of the health and well-being of local economies and communities. Believing divestment from the big four banks to be a powerful and empowering action with net gains for the local and national economy, the group decided to start within their own community with a goal of designing a replicable model, creating momentum, and reaching out to friends in other communities that will adapt and work similarly under the banner of Move Your Money Portland.
Traditionally, many touring bands have held their noses and banked with bigger banks because of the accessibility of ATMs and branches across the country, but some credit unions take part in a co-op network that allows greater banking options while on the road, and some local banks cover ATM fee charges. Credit unions and local banks have increasingly developed competitive products for businesses as well, giving the vast majority of local businesses little reason to continue doing business with a big bank. The group wants to help bands and businesses overcome inertia to make the move - surely it is hard to find anyone who banks with joy at Bank of America - and also provide Portland musicians an opportunity to use the attention they get through their music to spread the message about how empowering and easy it is to divest from the big four banks and help the local economy.
A full list of bands and businesses who have registered as having switched or who have pledged to make the switch grows dynamically at www.moveyourmoneyportland.com. Among the businesses and bands to have made the pledge are the record label Kill Rock Stars, venues Doug Fir, The Woods, and Valentine’s, and bands Quasi, Nurses, The Thermals, Deelay Ceelay, White Hinterland, and Alela Diane, with more bands and businesses currently in discussions with the working group, which expects pledges grow at a steady pace in the coming weeks.
Please continue to the next page to read the letter. For further comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Portland Music Community Leader,
We would like to encourage you to remove your money from Bank of America, Citi, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase and begin banking with a clear conscience with a local community bank or credit union. The big banks do not deserve your business. Your money is better invested by those in your own community who have a stake in the health and well-being of your community.
If you have already moved, great. If you still bank with one of the big banks, you have a decision to make. It is the same as the decision to shop at your co-op instead of Walmart. It's the same as the decision to buy organic vegetables instead of pesticide-ridden vegetables. It is the same as riding a bike when you could drive. You are where you bank.
The economic crash, recession, and meager recovery your business has been forced to fight through was brought on by the greed and shortsightedness of the largest investment and consumer banking institutions who, after years of deregulation and "innovation" in financial services, went for broke, armed with creative financial instruments designed, sadly, by many of our best and brightest young thinkers who otherwise could have been engineers, doctors, teachers, scientists etc. in another, better, economic system.
We know how the story went: the big banks wrecked the economy, were bailed out, and succeeded in lobbying for a watered-down Dodd-Frank reform bill, tied up proposed regulation in the courts, and went back to the same business practices and saw record profits. After riding high, the big banks are now feeling a little pain, which they are quick to pass on to consumers with the new fees proposals in the news recently.
This entire saga is the clearest example of the pillaging that is done by the me-first, country-second elites, enabled by their government cronies, in an economy and society where they have all the power and have to be forced through what little regulation can be passed to have any regard for their countrymen.*
We have been asking ourselves what we can do. Occupy Wall Street and the 1000+ related demonstrations across the country are populated by people just like us who are seeking answers to that question. We are angry. We fear for the short, near, and long-term health of our economy and feel the negative impacts on our society caused by the recklessness and greed of those in power.
We believe that moving money away from the big banks and the pirating elites and into community-focused credit unions and local banks is a powerful and empowering first step in righting our system. We have decided to begin by working in our own community, with musicians and music-related businesses. We do this in solidarity with others working similarly right now in their respective communities and with the hope that perhaps others in Portland might follow our example and work in their own communities in a similar way.
Will you pledge to move your money?**
As much as the big banks do not deserve your business, credit unions and community banks do. If we want to balance our economy so that it shifts toward local focus and investment such that our small businesses are the beneficiaries instead of the pirating elites, join us in moving your money.
Rachel Blumberg, Sam Coomes, Neal Morgan, Lisa Schonberg
* How out of whack is our economy?
- 80% of Americans' gains in income between 1980 and 2005 went to the top 1%. - Minimum wage is at a 50-year low adjusted for inflation.
- The top 1% controls a third of the nation's wealth. The top 10% controls nearly 3/4 of the nation's wealth.
- In the 70s, CEOs made on average about 30x the average worker. That grew to 100+ in the 80s/90s and is north of 300+ by conservative estimates. Other developed industrial societies are between the 10x and 50x range.
- The amount of the Bush tax cuts that go to the top 1% every year is larger than the entire budget for the US Dept. of Education.
We could go on and on, but instead, we strongly recommend you look through these slides to get a good picture of income inequality in the US: http://www.businessinsider.com/us-wealth-inequality-2010-7
** Credit Unions or local banks will provide the same services you’re getting at a big bank.
We encourage you to look first at Credit Unions. Not-for-profit and greater local focus. If you are a touring musician, we suggest choosing a Credit Union that is a part of the shared-branch co-op as well as the ATM co- op, so you can deposit both cash and checks while you’re on the road. If you want to open an individual account, we suggest looking at the interest rates and fees related to checking accounts and online banking. Some have great checking rates with no fees.
We understand that making this shift will require time and energy. For a seamless transition, your move should be done in a phased, carefully-planned way at a time that is appropriate for you and/or your business.
Start now by going to one or two Credit Unions near you, explain your banking needs, and see how well they match up.
How convenient is a credit union?
● 6,300 LOCATIONS: Many are linked in a nationwide network, so you can use any credit union to deposit/ withdraw, not just your own.
● 28,000 ATMs: You will have access to all ATMs in that network in the US and Canada. Many are in 7- Eleven stores! Search for ATMs at cuswirl.com or use iPhone app “CO-OP ATM”.
● Some credit unions and local banks can work with you by covering ATM fees, should you find yourself traveling and forced to use big bank ATMs.
● You can find a credit union here: www.findacreditunion.com
The feeling of empowerment and your own peace of mind is worth any slight inconveniences related to making this move. You are where you bank.