Thousands Protest, 24 Arrested in Chicago Marches Against ‘Corporate Welfare’
More than a dozen community organizations and unions in Chicago led a march of thousands to a Midwest Chamber of Commerce summit on Tuesday to demand that corporations pay their “fair share” in taxes and invest in communities. The protest is part of a growing chorus calling for budget deficit, unemployment, and housing crises to be solved through taxing the wealthy rather than cutting social programs.
Three marches snaked through downtown Chicago at rush hour to converge on the Hyatt Regency, where chief financial officers from McDonald’s, IBM, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and other corporations were meeting, to demand companies fund jobs, housing, and education programs. Organizers accused the companies of taking government handouts and hoarding them rather than investing in communities.
“These CFOs want to hide the hundreds of millions of dollars they’ve receive in corporate welfare,” said E.J. Serrano, organizing director of the Stand Up! Chicago coalition. They’ve stolen taxpayer money—funds that were intended to create jobs, to support struggling schools, and to keep families in their homes.”
The organizers of the summit have declined to comment on the action.
As the marches converged, a huge banner was dropped from the deck of the Trump International Hotel and Towers reading “CFOs, YOU’RE FIRED.” After protesters arrived at the hotel, 24 people sat down in the street and were arrested for blocking traffic.
Progress Illinois put together a short video from the action:
The march was one of the largest public actions calling out corporations for helping cause budget shortfalls at the local and state levels by not paying their “fair share.” There has been an increasingly loud pushback around the country to the claims of Republicans (and many Democrats) that states are in severe budget crises because of pensions and health care plans of public workers and entitlement programs like Medicare.
Increasing attention has been paid to corporations like General Electric, who paid no taxes in 2010 despite seeing $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, and financial institutions like Bank of America, who received $1 billion from taxpayers last year but paid no taxes. And like the richest corporations, the country’s richest citizens are still paying some of the lowest tax rates in history (thanks in part to the renewal of the Bush era tax cuts earlier this year), helping the wealthy see their incomes skyrocket in recent years while middle and working class and poor families have watched their incomes stagnate or drop.
The message that corporations are to blame for the fiscal crisis, not the working and middle class citizens with modest pensions and health care plans is gaining serious traction—a recent Pew poll shows that only 24 percent of Americans blame the crisis on increased spending for domestic programs, despite the fact that Republicans have worked hard to demonize domestic spending in recent talking points.
Americans are clearly unwilling to allow social services they deem vital to be gutted (as is evident in the flak Republicans continue to take in response to Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal effectively privatizing Medicare) as some of the country’s wealthiest corporations pay literally nothing in taxes. It’s a reality that grates against Americans’ basic sense of meritocratic fairness, and is sure to continue to push citizens into the streets at actions like Tuesday’s Chicago march.
Micah Uetricht is a staff writer with Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @micahuetricht.
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