Before there was “Move Your Money” there was “Fire Your Bank.”
It was January 2009, and 3000 miles from the epicenter of the financial meltdown, 800 people attended an economic justice town hall in Portland, sponsored by Jobs with Justice, the Oregon Working Families Party (OWFP) and others. People wanted to take action to protect their own local economies from the aftershocks of the disaster wrought by the Big Banks.
Barbara Dudley, co-chair of the OWFP, suggested that folks begin looking at where monies are deposited and invested. A core group focused on banking emerged and came up with the name, “Fire Your Bank.” The group organized several actions, with people serving giant pink slips to Wall Street banks in downtown Portland, closing their accounts, and moving their money to local banks and credit unions. It also began researching the community banks and credit unions, and contacting local bankers to garner support for a longer-term effort to create a state-owned bank that would partner with local banks to make loans to Oregon businesses, farms, students and homeowners.
The 2009 campaign not only was a precursor to the Move Your Money campaign, but it also involved many key organizers now taking part in the local Occupy protests throughout the state.
Fast forward to the first Saturday of November—“Bank Transfer Day”: 40,000 new customers nationwide deposited $90 million with credit unions, adding to the 650,000 people and $4.5 billion in deposits that had been moved to community banks in the preceding weeks. In Oregon, a savvy and diverse coalition that had already been working for nearly three years to create a state bank realized it isn’t enough to simply move money.
“We were telling people move your money but weren’t being clear about where to,” explains Dudley. “Some of the credit unions or local banks are just as bad as the big banks—I mean, there is a difference amongst them.”
So a coalition of six organizations that includes OWFP, Jobs with Justice and the Rural Organizing Project created Oregon Banks Local to help people determine just “how local a bank or credit union truly is.”
Oregon Banks Local—with assistance from the New Rules Project—researched and rated real, objective and measurable data, including: whether an institution’s headquarters is in the state, region or elsewhere; whether ownership is cooperative, private or limited stock, or NASDAQ/NYSE traded; percentage of branches in-state, the region or elsewhere; and the percentage of assets in small business loans.