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Protest On Wall Street's Support for Privatisation

Workers and Community Allies Protest Wall Street's Support for Privatization

Workers and Community Allies Protest Wall Street's Support for Privatization

Rally and "Boat Flotilla" Sends Message to Securities Industry Association: "Don't Pick Our Pockets to Line Yours."

Young people, workers and retirees demonstrated today in Fort Lauderdale to tell a major Wall Street industry trade association: "Don't Pick Our Pockets to Line Yours!" The protest took place outside the Marriott hotel where the Securities Industry Association (SIA) held a symposium on "Social Security Reform."

"The real beneficiaries of a privatized Social Security system will be the Wall Street companies that stand to make huge profits from managing private accounts," said Dan Reynolds, President of the Broward County AFL-CIO. "The Securities Industry Association (SIA) and its members' support for privatization is a conflict of interest with the retirement security of millions of workers and retirees, many of whom have entrusted their savings to these same firms."

The SIA – a long-time supporter of privatization – is part of the largest business-backed lobby for privatizing Social Security: the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security (AWRS). Following protests last week, one leading SIA firm, Edward Jones, withdrew its membership from the AWRS. Edward Jones' managing partner is Vice Chairman of the SIA. Following Edward Jones' withdrawal, AWRS Executive Director Derrick Max stated publicly that he saw "no reason" for an organization to be part of the AWRS other than support for privatizing Social Security. The AWRS removed its membership list from their web site after Edward Jones withdrew.

A boat flotilla cruised outside the hotel on the Intercoastal waterway with banners saying "Don't Sink Social Security," while more than a hundred protestors rallied outside near the hotel.

"As the guardian of my deceased sister's three children and having four of my own, we depend on Social Security survivors benefits to help make ends meet," said Wander Adderly, a member of ACORN and single mother. "What would happen to us if Social Security is privatized?"

The SIA workshop featured Andrew Biggs, Associate Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, who was brought over to the SSA from the Cato Institute. Two other speakers at the SIA workshop are also proponents of privatization.

"Instead of pushing an initiative which could harm the retirement security of the investing public, the SIA should withdraw its support for privatization," said Tony Fransetta, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.

The AFL-CIO has launched a new website, www.wallstreetgreed.org, and an e-activist campaign to educate the public about Wall Street’s self-interest in pushing Social Security privatization. On Thursday, the AFL-CIO posted a list of the 46 financial services firms with known ties to groups promoting privatization of Social Security on its site.

Recent statements by officials of the SIA have tried to downplay the organization's support for privatization. In a letter to the leadership of the SIA Board sent Wednesday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, "The financial services industry cannot have it both ways. The SIA and its member firms cannot claim non-involvement, while remaining involved through the AWRS and other activity. The public is usually the loser when companies entrusted with managing other people’s money pursue their own gain through covert means… The financial industry should not be backing an initiative that would shred the protections that Social Security provides for retirement, disability, and loss of a wage-earner."

In addition to the SIA's on-going membership in the AWRS lobby group, the SIA has directly supported the Bush administration’s campaign to privatize Social Security. In November, SIA officials participated in a high-level White House strategy session on business support for the privatization initiative. In January, SIA helped recruit participants for President Bush’s recent town hall meetings. And on Thursday, the SIA convened a meeting in New York for Treasury Secretary Snow to press the case for privatizing Social Security with financial industry officials.

Other speakers at the rally included Hector Varas and Marna Davidson.

"Attacks on private pensions and public employee funds have already weakened our retirement security," said Varas, an eighth grade school teacher in the Broward County Schools. "Now the Bush administration wants to privatize Social Security, forcing benefit cuts and increasing the deficit. Working families will not accept a plan that makes our retirement less secure."

"This privatization plan could hurt the economy and increase the deficit, passing huge new bills on to our children and grandchildren," said Davidson, a retired teacher who is the mother of two children and grandmother of five.


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