Unions flex muscle with bank protests

Labor unions are flexing their muscle this month in scores of protests against the country’s largest banks, which are lobbying heavily to influence financial overhaul legislation.

Unions will hold roughly 200 events by March 26 aimed at Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.

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One of the largest, with roughly 1,000 people slated to attend, is in Philadelphia on Friday and targets Bank of America.

“It’s time to create good jobs now and the big Wall Street banks that destroyed jobs should pay to restore them,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. Trumka is scheduled to speak in Philadelphia.

The events are part of a broader campaign to fight Wall Street banks. Unions are strong supporters of a new tax on stock and other financial transactions and a new agency or bureau to oversee consumer financial protection.

Labor unions and many consumer advocacy organizations have pushed a tax on stock transactions that could raise billions of dollars in revenue.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has been one of the most vocal supporters of a tax, which has been resisted by the financial industry.

Banks and other financial interests argue that the tax would wind up restricting the flow of credit and hurting consumers. Unions say the tax would limit excessive speculation in financial markets and encourage financial firms to make longer-term investments.

Neither the House nor the Senate is planning to take up the stock transaction soon.

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The consumer protection bureau is one of the central elements of Democratic efforts to overhaul financial regulations. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has scheduled a markup of financial legislation for Monday.

Dodd unveiled legislation this week that includes, among other provisions, a new consumer bureau housed at the Federal Reserve that would have broad rulemaking and enforcement power. The bureau is different from a standalone agency originally proposed by President Barack Obama and passed by the House in December.

Consumer advocates and labor unions continue to favor a standalone agency.

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