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Friday, April 30, 2010

Labor Unions March on Wall Street, Securities Workers Complain

San Francisco Chronicle

Labor union members led by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka marched on Wall Street to demand taxes on bonuses as securities workers said the protesters should go to work and stop demonstrating.

"It's time for special taxes for bank bonuses," Trumka told an estimated 7,500 at a rally outside City Hall yesterday that began after trading ended at the New York Stock Exchange. "When you engage in rampant and risky speculation, you are going to pay your fair share in taxes."

The rally capped a drive by the nation's largest organization of labor unions called the "Make Wall Street Pay" campaign. Protestors, some dressed as pirates and others wearing prison garb, held signs saying "Break Up Megabanks" and "Hey Big Banks -- Less Bail, More Jail." Rallies have targeted Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the most profitable securities firm, and the five biggest U.S. banks.

Trumka started the march yelling "Let's let Wall Street hear us, all the way down to the bull" at Bowling Green, the end point for the protest. They marched under sunny skies with temperatures approaching 70 degrees (21 Celsius).

Brendan Plunkett, 46, a corporate bond trader, was heading home to Essex Falls, New Jersey, as the marchers walked down Broadway.

"If they care so much about the country, they should go to work and be productive and stop with the protests," he said. "It's all nonsense to me, and it always will be."

Ralph Metz, a 29-year-old stock broker for Spartan Capital Securities LLC at 45 Broadway, echoed that sentiment. "People have got to take responsibility for the decisions they make," he said.

Difference With Goldman

His friend, 31-year-old stock broker John Phillips, said the protestors picked the wrong target by focusing broadly on Wall Street. "There's a difference between Goldman Sachs and the rest of us," he said. "A lot of the guys in government used to work for Goldman Sachs."

Police estimated more than 7,500 people gathered in the park south of City Hall, before the crowd headed south past the stock exchange carrying signs reading "Reclaim Our Democracy" and "Hold Banks Accountable."

"They are tax dodgers, they aren't putting anything back into the community," said Otis J. Loweryberg, 84, a former International Business Machine Corp. worker in Delaware. "They only think about self -- self motivation, self-preservation. How do these guys go home at night when people have no food on the table."

The AFL-CIO, the 11-million-member labor federation, is urging Congress to impose a transaction tax on securities trading to help cover the $900 billion cost for a government jobs program they want lawmakers to create.

Geithner Opposition

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he opposes the transaction tax, though Trumka told reporters yesterday it is picking up interest within the Obama administration. "We talk about it all the time," Trumka said. "The conversation is getting better and more analytical."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business lobbying group, opposes the tax, which it says would hurt more than bankers.

Wayne Usilton, 63, a former Chrysler worker from Delaware, said he joined more than 40 other union members from his state on a bus trip to the Manhattan event.

"The average person on Main Street is just fed up with big business and Wall Street manipulation," Usilton said.