Union members with SEIU United Service Workers West marched along Colorado… (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Staff…)
Taking a cue from the Occupy movement, economic justice activists and union members gathered Tuesday outside the Pasadena home of Wells Fargo board member Enrique Hernandez Jr. to call for increased corporate taxes and an end to home foreclosures by the bank.
The rally of 27 people on tony South San Rafael Avenue was organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a labor-affiliated nonprofit singling out individual business leaders in its effort to change the practices of leading financial institutions.
ACCE, the Service Employees International Union, the California Federation of Teachers and other groups pooling resources as the ReFund California coalition have identified more than a dozen “rich CEOs and executives in the Golden State who pocket millions while backing and bankrolling an agenda that keeps economic and political power in the hands of the few.”
“Before we just said ‘the 1%.’ Now we’re going to name you and shame you,” said ACCE activist Peggy Mears, who is fighting to save her Fontana home from foreclosure.
ReFund California staged an Oct. 5 protest at the San Marino home of Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer Tim Sloan that inspired a city law ordering demonstrators to stay at least 150 feet from homes.
Hernandez, who also sits on the boards of Chevron and McDonald’s, did not return calls.
Hernandez, 56, is chief executive of Pasadena-based Inter-Con Security, which does work ranging from guarding U.S. embassies and other State Department facilities to providing parking enforcement services and parking structure security for the city of Pasadena.
Hernandez headed the Los Angeles Police Commission from 1993 to 1995, and from 2001 to 2007 was a director of the Tribune Co., owner of the Pasadena Sun.
ReFund California is calling on banks to reset mortgage debts to the current market value of homes and supports a legislative package by state Democrats that would stop banks from initiating foreclosure on homeowners seeking loan modifications.
In a statement Tuesday, Wells Fargo took issue with ReFund California’s claims that the bank is “America’s biggest tax dodger,” with $18 billion in tax breaks from 2008 to 2010 despite profits of nearly $50 billion.
“Much of the public discourse about Wells Fargo is not based on fact,” reads the statement. “The past 10 years, Wells Fargo [combined with Wachovia] paid more than $33 billion in federal and state corporate income taxes… [although] the past three years, Wells Fargo’s taxable income has been significantly affected by the economic downturn and the merger with Wachovia.”
The bank also reports granting 740,350 mortgage modifications between January 2009 and March 2012.
Northwest Pasadena resident Janice Mowrey said taking protests to the homes of bank executives “puts a human face” on the powers behind economic policy.
“These are real people and they should look at us like real people, too. They can’t just wrap themselves up in the armor of their wealth and their titles,” said Mowrey.
A driver passing the protest said it was “disturbing” to target Hernandez at his home.
“People don’t know him as a person,” said the woman, who did not give her name but said she lived nearby. “To go around calling people immoral is just hype.”
Former Pasadena Water and Power administrator Mike Milliner, now a union leader at the Metropolitan Water District, said the group hoped to reach powerbrokers on a more personal level.
“We don’t begrudge them being fortunate, but they have an obligation within themselves and their community to make sure they spread the wealth and pay their fair share,” said Milliner.
Demonstrators later canvassed South San Rafael Avenue with a petition to increase state income taxes on the wealthy.
Some homeowners refused to open their doors, but retired real estate agent Christine Reynolds said she was concerned about the growing disparity between rich and poor.
Reynolds’ answer to those who would include her among “the 1%”: “That I should pay more taxes,” she said.
In a separate but related protest Tuesday, more than 100 members of SEIU United Service Workers West marched through downtown Pasadena. United Service Workers West is currently in contract negotiations for janitors, airport workers and private security guards, and in 2008 clashed with Inter-Con during a bid to unionize security guards at Kaiser Permanente hospitals.
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-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News