July 2011

Who Broke Philly?

America’s economy is in tatters, and it’s growing worse each day.

Things here in Philly are no different – in fact, our reality is often worse. We’ve lost jobs, faced pay cuts, been forced to give up benefits, and those of us that are working are overworked and overextended.

It’s a reality that keeps us up at night. Families cannot go to see a doctor.  Students are suffering as schools are underfunded and closed.  Many of us owe more on our homes than they’re worth.  They’re canceling programs that once allowed our children and young adults to actively participate in our communities.

Philadelphia’s future – our future – looks bleaker every day.

What caused this catastrophe? We’ve heard plenty of blame going around.
Much of the blame is designed to pit Philadelphian against Philadelphian – union vs. non-union workers, immigrants vs. non-immigrants, and liberals vs. conservatives.

But the truth is that Philadelphians aren’t to blame for the broken economy. It was broken by the actions of a few powerful people:

  • Big Banks caused the Great Recession by making risky, complicated decisions that even they didn’t understand.
  • Big corporations like Comcast and Verizon stopped paying their fair share in taxes.
  • Politicians helped by deregulating and bailing out the banks, lowering corporate income taxes in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and failing to close corporate tax loopholes.

While our crisis was caused by the actions of just a few powerful people, it can be turned around by the actions of the rest of us.

As long as we’re ready to Fight for Philly, we can do this together.  Are you in?

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Wells Fargo Slapped With Major $85 Million Fine for Alleged Predatory, “Deceptive” Lending

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve leveled a $85 million penalty on Wells Fargo, addressing allegations that the bank steered borrowers – including those in Pennsylvania – into high-cost, subprime loans. It’s the very first enforcement action taken by a federal bank’s regulatory agency to address this kind of issue.

According to a statement, the Federal Reserve issued an order detailing allegations that Wells Fargo employees “steered potential prime borrowers into more costly subprime loans” and “falsified income information in mortgage applications.”

According to allegations in the order, Wells Fargo Financial sales personnel “steered borrowers who were potentially eligible for prime interest rate loans into loans at higher, subprime interest rates, resulting in greatest costs to borrowers.”  The bank employees “falsified information about borrowers’ incomes to make it appear that the borrowers qualified for loans when they would not have qualified based on their actual incomes.”

Labeling these alleged practices as “unsafe,” “unsound,” “unfair,” and “deceptive,” the Federal Reserve says that they were “allegedly fostered by Wells Fargo Financials’ incentive compensation and sales quota programs and the lack of adequate controls to manage the risk resulting from the programs.”

In addition to the $85 million fine, Wells Fargo must also “compensate affected borrowers.”

The Federal Reserve isn’t the only institution calling Wells Fargo out for these kinds of alleged practices.  Last year, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission accused Wells Fargo of engaging in predatory lending practices in African-American neighborhoods of Philadelphia.

According to the Commission’s complaint, the practices in place since 2004 have contributed to the “disproportionately large number of foreclosures” in these neighborhoods. Wells Fargo was further cited by the Treasury Department for improperly denying homeowners the opportunity to adjust their mortgage under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.

It’s far time that big banks like Wells Fargo are held accountable for their actions.  We, for one, are glad to see this fine as a first step, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

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Philadelphians Heard Loud and Clear: We Need Jobs and a Good Future

On Tuesday night, hundreds of people from across Philadelphia came together to speak out about the need for creating good jobs for our city.

State Senator Vincent Hughes, State Representative Vanessa Brown and City Councilmembers Bill Green and Marian Tasco were also present and listened closely to what Philadelphia residents had to share about their lives, their families and their neighborhoods – and what we needed to do to turn around the picture for working class people in this city.

Throughout the evening, everything kept coming back to the need for creating good, family-sustaining jobs and making them accessible to everyone who needs them.

Folks also talked about how cutting taxes for rich people and corporations were ineffective in combating this recession.  In fact, as some people pointed out, the revenue we’re losing in Pennsylvania from everyone not paying their fair share is causing drastic cuts in public services throughout the city.

Patricia R., a highly trained electrician and cable broadcasting technician has been unemployed for quite some time.  She shared with the audience about how her days are filled with job-hunting, and her evenings with attending community meetings so that she can be a part of the change we need.   “We need good jobs to make our community grow and to prepare a good future for our young people,” she said.

Before heading out, folks who had been inspired by sharing and hearing all of these stories signed up for Fight for Philly’s upcoming Community Organizing Committee Meetings. These meetings are the next big step in growing this movement to hold corporations and politicians accountable regarding the concerns raised at the Speak Out, and to continue to improve our communities and all of Philadelphia.

Now is the time to come together so that we can all have our shot at building a better future for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Check out photos from the evening here and stay tuned for video of people speaking up!

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July 19, 2011: Philadelphians Heard Loud and Clear: We Need Jobs and a Good Future

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A Chance to Tell Your Story to Elected Leaders

I have some exciting news about a very special opportunity, and I wanted to let you know as soon as I heard.

Remember last week, when we asked you why we need to Fight for Philly? Well, your responses were amazing.

And now, on July 19th, you have the opportunity to tell our elected leaders these stories in person.

Find out more and RSVP here:

http://action.fightforphilly.org/page/s/goodjobsphilly

The stories that you shared are exactly what our elected leaders need to hear right now.

Just take a look at what some of you had to say:

“I remember the Great City of Brotherly Love where neighborhoods care for each other and mostly the children. I remember recreation centers, block parties, and summer food programs kept the children hopeful. . . Philly is worth fighting for because Brotherly Love is still here. . . Fight Philly Fight!” – Patricia H.

“For too long it's been the little guy who has taken the brunt of all these cuts. We need to stop giving tax breaks to major corporations, and get them more involved in the helping of others, rather than their quarterly reports. I'm tired of the wealthy living off of the blood, sweat, and tears of the little guy.” – Dean Z.

“We should always fight for the poor and underprivileged–as well as workers’ rights. Our country is moving backwards.. . Everything is benefitting the top 1% of Americans, while those who don’t have are suffering. Let’s fight back!” – Joshua Z.

And now you have the opportunity to be heard. Definitely don’t miss out on this.

Find out more and RSVP here:

http://action.fightforphilly.org/page/s/goodjobsphilly

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Elizabeth L: “We Can Organize and Get These Communities Together.”

Hi, my name is Elizabeth.  I am a certified nursing assistant, and have been in the medical field for twenty-two years.

When I moved to Philadelphia, I was unable to find steady work and accumulate enough hours and wages to find a new place to live.  So, I had to make the difficult decision to leave one of my children with family, while I spent nights sleeping in cars.

Corporations are draining our cities and are sucking the life out of them, and not contributing enough to the city. This is why we don’t have enough jobs.  This is why our budget is a mess.  This is why our children aren’t getting a better education.

Being a part of Fight for Philly motivates me to keep fighting for myself, for my community, for my children and for my grandchildren’s future.

We can organize and get these communities together, get these blocks together, and get these people together to wake them up – and let them know there’s hope.

Join me in the Fight for Philly here: http://action.fightforphilly.org/page/s/signup

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Be Heard: Why Are You Fighting for Philly?

Why are we Fighting for Philly?

We’re being forced to make sacrifices that will deeply affect our city’s future. We’re talking about massive cuts to education, public services, and the safety of our neighborhoods.

So we want to hear from you. Why do you think we need to Fight for Philly?

Watch what others said, and then tell us what’s on your mind here: http://action.fightforphilly.org/page/s/whyfight

Our community is coming together to Fight for Philly. We’re made of parents that are concerned about the future of our children, students who are afraid they won’t be able to get a job after they graduate, and people that work hard and deserve an honest wage.

Everyone here has a reason why they’re Fighting for Philly. What’s yours?

Tell us here:

http://action.fightforphilly.org/page/s/whyfight

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