As the protesting spirit spreads in Wisconsin, one tactic that union members are now adopting is to take aim at institutions that have donated heavily to Governor Scott Walker.
Members of the Wisconsin firefighter's union set out for a local branch of the M & I Bank on Thursday to withdraw their personal savings. The UpTake, which describes itself as "a citizen-fueled, online video news gathering organization," reports that "on Thursday members of the union withdrew close to $200,000 from the bank."
A website titled "Keep on eye on Marshall & Ilsley Bank" had been targeting the M & I Bank since last month. "After working families gave Marshall and Ilsley Bank (M&I) a $1.7 billion bailout in 2008," the site explains, "their executives did an about face and funded Governor Scott Walker's attack on our right to collectively bargain. In fact, their financial help combined was more than what the Koch Brothers contributed. And while Governor Walker was demanding austerity from working people, M&I CEO Mark Furlong got an $18 million golden parachute. Even after the bank was having diffulty paying back its TARP loan."
According to Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars, the run on the bank began when teachers, firefighters, and police offers threatened to start a boycott on March 17 if the bank did not publicly oppose Walker's attack on collective bargaining rights. But after the governor pushed the cancellation of collective bargaining through the state legislation, it inspired so many protesters to show up on Thursday that the branch shut down "under the advisement of the Madison Police Department."
A diary at Daily Kos, headed "We're Going To Destroy A Bank," described the action in more personal terms. "M & I Bank of Wisconsin has committed an unpardonable offense," diarist Stranded Wind wrote. "This bank took bailout funds and thanks to the magic of Citizens United our own tax dollars flowed through their executives hands into the coffers of Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign. We haven't dug deeply yet, but I think when we do we're going to find that we no longer have Russ Feingold's voice in the Senate because of this as well."
"What these pictures show are six hundred ordinary citizens descending on the M&I branch near the Wisconsin Capitol after learning of their purchase of the gubernatorial election last November," the diary continues. "If the 60% of Wisconsin that's sick to death of Scott Walker's behavior simply go close their accounts the bank will crash and they'll have stripped him of the funds he needs to fight the recall next January."
The bank has continued to insist that "M&I has not contributed to any candidate and did not contribute to Governor Walker or Mayor Barrett in the last gubernatorial election. M&I has over 6,000 employees in Wisconsin, and, in the great tradition of political freedom in this country, those employees have the right to contribute to the candidate of their choice."