Occupied!: A Banker’s Perspective
**Editor’s note: this is our first guest blog in our Occupied! series. This is from a good friend of mine, @ColdSkrilla, who is a Spelman alumna and is in investment banking in Chicago. This is a bit different perspective for us, and I think it offers a lot of balance to the conversation. Remember, if you want to contribute to this series or to the blog in general, hit us up at 40AcresandaCubicle@gmail.com**
Growing up in DC, arguably the most liberal city in America, I’ve always been down for a good protest. I own plenty of tie-dye and am for the most part cool with sleeping outside. With that said, Occupy Wall Street is still a little vague to me and I’m not sure if this worldwide protest has the potential to create real change in Corporate America in its current form. My first issue is with people saying that protests today will work because they worked during the Civil Rights era. The missing links in this equation are two words: economic repercussions. During the Civil Rights movement businesses, as well city governments, saw tangible economic repercussions as a result of the protests and boycotts. In a city such as Montgomery, Alabama, where a significant number of their bus riders were Black, a bus boycott was catastrophic for business and they had no choice but to integrate as a result of lost revenue. The same concept can be applied to the various restaurants and department stores that we boycotted. I’d argue that these targeted boycotts played a more critical role in ending segregation than protests. While human compassion and morality were certainly factors in ending the Jim Crow era, many of those who were vehemently opposed to integration changed their tune once they saw it hit their wallet.
Bringing it back to 2011, where are the economic repercussions for businesses today as a result of Occupy Wall Street? Essentially, there are none. To my knowledge there have been no mass boycotts of any companies as a result of their predatory practices or greedy CEOs. Occupy Wall Street protests remind me of the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. People can yell, scream, march, and protest all they want but until they start throwing some sticks and stones (metaphorically speaking of course) there will be no change in the status quo of Corporate America. These sticks and stones come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but primarily as policy and economic intervention. If you want to see change in Corporate America, support congressional candidates that plan to push legislation that raises corporate taxes or caps salaries for employees of public companies, or other policies that will force corporations to change their practices. Let me re-emphasize that: CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES. POTUS has absolutely no power to make legislation. Policy is created in congress and who’s in congress matters way more than who is President. I’m not saying the president doesn’t matter, I’m just saying that you can’t give presidential candidates all of your attention and forget that congressional candidates are just as important if not more.
Lastly, hit Corporate America where it really hurts: in its pocket! If the protests aren’t doing anything to affect the actual business, who cares? However, if OWS protestors collaborated to push a national boycott of certain companies they might actually take notice and re-evaluate their practices. Until some real action is taken that affects policy or company revenues, OWSers just have words and they’ll never hurt Corporate America.