Why I Broke Up with Bank of America

Last November, 2011, I finally made the move to ditch the corporate bank account I’ve had since I was eight years old and opened an account at a local, sustainable bank. So did thousands of Americans during Bank Transfer Day, resulting in over $4 billion dollars moved out of big banks and into credit unions.

Do you know where your money spends the night?

Wall Street banks are trashing our economy and our environment in the name of their own profits—do you buy into their corruption and greed? It’s time to Pink Slip Big Banks and invest in a more peaceful and just future by moving your money!  How?  I used the Move your Money tool to find a listing of local banks and credit unions in my area.  I selected New Resources Bank in San Francisco, the same bank that Rainforest Action Network and CODEPINK use.  After opening my new account, I used the 7 Simple Steps To Move Your Checking Account checklist to really move my money, and finally, I proudly visited a B of A branch and presented them with a Pink Slip – they were friendly enough about losing my business (I admit I’m no millionaire so it wasn’t a big loss, though it was the principle of the thing).

This year on International Women’s Day, March 8th, I plan to join the women of the 99% at Break Up Bank of America actions.  The Women Occupy Call to Action is an inspiring statement of solidarity with the Occupy Movement and with the thousands of homeowners across the country who have been affected by home foreclosure. Women Occupy is supporting the women-led campaigns of Public Citizen and Rainforest Action Network, to hold Bank of America accountable for the predatory economic policies that are destroying our families and communities.  On March 8th activists in dozens of cities from NYC to LA are planning to occupy Bank of America branches by staging Super(s)hero Showdowns against Bandit of America, holding Really REALLY free markets to show what a feminist gift economy can look like, creating Walk in Our Shoes displays with pairs of shoes to illustrate the real people impacted by home foreclosure, job loss, and environmental destruction, and other creative tactics.  Plus Women Occupy is asking people to cancel their big bank accounts on March 8th and move their money to local banks or credit unions.  Not that another reason is needed to move your money, but why not do it on a big day of action and in solidarity with the 51% of the 99%: women?!

Since its inception in the early twentieth century, International Women’s Day has been rooted in the struggle for economic justice, growing out of local demonstrations by women workers demanding shorter hours, better pay, voting rights, and an end to discrimination.  Women have long been the prime targets of predatory bank policies and economic collapse: women are 32% more likely than men to receive sub?prime mortgages and Latina and African-American women borrowers are most likely to receive sub?prime loans at every income level.  Women make up 51% of the world’s population but 70% of the world’s poor. We perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn 10% of the income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.  Our work continues to be unpaid, underpaid and undervalued, making us invisible to economic indicators and ineligible for the rewards reaped by the most “productive” members of society.  It’s time we turned the tables and started going after the big banks! And what better suspect than the biggest of the big banks – Bank of America?

Why target Bank of America? As of June 2010, Bank of America had $88 billion worth of foreclosed homes in its portfolio — more than any other mortgage servicer in the country. In order to please investors they even started kicking people out of homes faster than other banks, instead of working with them to refinance or restructure their mortgages. Despite having higher average credit scores than men, women are more likely to receive subprime mortgages that leave them vulnerable to home foreclosure.  Bank of America had a hand in the worst of the subprime lending excesses, providing financing to four of the five largest subprime lenders during the years prior to the crash. Together, these firms issued over $320 billion in subprime loans from 2005 through 2007, a disproportionate number of which went to women who would have qualified for traditional loans with far lower costs.

B of A is the official bank of the US military and has branches by or on many bases, which allows them to entice military personnel to take out loans at usurious rates. Personal loans made to soldiers for a few thousand dollars can actually keep them indebted for the rest of their lives. Last May, Bank of America paid $22 million to settle charges of improperly foreclosing on active-duty troops.  The list of reasons goes on and on – there’s even a published list of 10 reasons to hate Bank of America.

And what’s the ask of Bank of America?  Activists are asking that Bank of America be regulated and broken up into smaller, safer pieces that won’t take America down with them if they fail.  B of A can invest in the planet and stop funding coal projects that are polluting our communities and ruining the climate.  B of A can pay the statutorily required 35% corporate income tax instead of draining the government of revenue through off-shore tax shelters, loopholes, and scams.  Instead of endless home foreclosures, B of A could help stabilize the housing market and revitalize the economy by reducing principal for all underwater homeowners to current market value. This would end the foreclosure crisis, reset the housing market, pump billions of dollars back into the economy, and create 1 million jobs a year.

Moving our money is one of the powerful ongoing direct actions that has come out of the growing Occupy movement.  Let’s escalate our individual efforts by coordinating actions at Bank of America in solidarity with the existing campaigns targeting B of A coordinated by Rainforest Action Network, Public Citizen, and others.  And let’s ask our cities, organizations, and other institutions to divest from big banks and invest in local economy and sustainability.  Together we can send a loud message to Wall Street and big banks: not with our money, not on our dime!

Rae Abileah is the co-director of CODEPINK Women for Peace and is a co-organizer of Occupy AIPAC, Stolen Beauty boycott of Ahava cosmetics, and Women Occupy. Rae is a contributing author to 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military; Sisters Singing: Incantations, Blessings, Chants, Prayers, Art and Sacred Stories by Women; Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Stories of Jewish Peace Activists; and Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution. She lives in San Francisco, CA. Rae can be reached at rae[at]codepink.org, @raeabileah and on Facebook. Read other articles by Rae, or visit Rae's website.