The Democratic National Committee is moving its money. It’s taking its money out of the bailed-out Bank of America and putting it into union-owned Amalgamated Bank. The move—seen by many as the right thing to do—is, nevertheless, loaded with political meaning and irony.
Backstage banking bits
For a variety of reasons—including labor’s suspicion that Obama is too corporate—the Democratic Party has been struggling to get labor energized for the November campaign. Also significant is the fact that labor refused to bankroll the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. Obviously, moving its primary banking relationship to the nation’s only union-run bank makes political sense for the DNC. And the DNC essentially acknowledges that motivation. In announcing the new alliance with Amalgamated, DNC Chair Debbie Wassermann Schultz made the proper pandering remarks:
“We are proud to join forces with Amalgamated Bank, an organization with a 90-year legacy of reflecting the values of our nation’s middle class. Amalgamated and the Democratic Party share a common heritage of advocating for positive changes in our economy and society to help working men and women achieve their fair share of the American dream.”
Amalgamated Bank was founded in 1923 by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America so that workers, labor unions, and progressive organizations would be able to bank with an institution that represented their interests. Today, Amalgamated Bank’s largest shareholder is Workers United, an SEIU affiliate.
The DNC’s move also is scoring political points with anti-corporate banking groups, like Move Our Money, which works with individuals and groups to try to move $1 billion out of the big banks, specifically focusing on JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. However, some say that the move is a bit too late. Daily Kos Labor has this to say:
But while taking money out of Bank of America and putting it in Amalgamated is a good move at any time, think how powerful it would have been if the DNC had done this last fall, as credit unions and other non-big bank financial institutions were gaining hundreds of thousands of accounts. The exact same move nine months ago would not only have been a move toward the union movement but a stand with a broader populist movement against Too Big to Fail. The DNC’s move to Amalgamated is both a win and a reminder of how much bigger a win it could have been.
The Obama campaign will continue to use Bank of America as its primary banker, as it did in the 2008 campaign. According to Politico, “An Obama campaign official said few banks in the country were both interested in the managing the account and able to meet the needs of an operation that takes in and spends large sums of money in quick bursts. The official said the decision to use Bank of America is ‘non-ideological—it’s who can provide the best service.’”
And let’s not forget the ultimate irony in this run from the bank: President Obama will be giving his acceptance speech in Charlotte, NC on September 6 at—wait for it—Bank of America Stadium.
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.