First, we have so far failed to personify the problem. For the vast majority of people, systems are too vague. While I think we have to keep our focus on the underlying systems, the masses will be more willing to help if they have a specific focus. So, when we talk about "Wall Street" or the "banking industry" or even specific banks, I suggest we instead make an effort to focus on specific individuals. We would be much more effective to talk about Brian Moynihan (CEO of Bank of America) than to talk more generally about systems or companies. Make him the face of the system. Mention his name every time you talk about our banking system. Highlight specific things that Bank of American has done. General boycotts, like moving our money to credit unions are important, but they are a drop in the bucket and they tend to be ineffective. We will be more effective to take 20% of Bank of America's profit than to take 5% of the industry's profits. This also allows us to focus our action, which has been difficult.
Once Bank of America (and their CEO) are selected as our target, our efforts can be concentrated. We can organize people to stand outside every B of A branch, everyday, and hand out flyers that specifically state why they should choose a different bank. Credit unions would be ideal, but even having them go across the street to Chase will have an effect. We can also legally tie up their business. We can promise to send 100 people per day into profitable, high volume branches in wealthy areas. Send people in 2 or 3 at a time to discuss opening new accounts. All you have to do is sit down with an adviser, discuss all their products from checking to savings to credit cards to money marketing accounts for 20-30 minutes, then say "no thanks" and leave. There is no defense for that. They can get hostile and start interrogating people when they walk through the door, but that will play into our hands because they're going to turn off legitimate customers. We can protest outside the homes of their highest level executives. It won't matter if their neighbors are against us, they will still be telling the B of A execs to make it stop.
This brings me to my last point, which is that we are missing a list of demands. If we don't have demands all we're going to do is improve B of A's service. So far, all we've done is cause them to reduce a few of their fees, which will make them more attractive to customers. No, we need demands that address our systemic issues. Once their business has taken a hit, they need to know what to do to make us stop. We can suggest things like a commitment from them not to hire a lobbyist in 2012, not to make political contributions to politicians, to stop backing immunity for the banking industry, or whatever else we can come up with. You might think it unlikely that they would ever comply with those things, but if we can consistently hit their profits, we improve our chances of winning greatly over what they are today. And if we show that we can do this to one bank, just the threat of doing it to another bank will be enough to force concessions without even doing anything.
I'm sure there will be critiques of this strategy, but I'm convinced that it addresses some of the shortcomings of our efforts so far. It's also a much more concrete strategy, which will make it much easier to mobilize people behind it.
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Saul Alinsky is definately a man to turn to for some good ideas.
Now, I've only had one cup of coffee this morning and I'm a little slow on the uptake today. Help me understand how the above direct action is explicitly harmful to banks. Is it annoying to them? Sure. Does it do more than waste their time?
I'm in the process of moving my money out of my bank and into a credit union. (I have to wait for a couple of checks to clear before I make the offical move.)
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