Category Archives: Community Organizing

Wells Fargo’s Gold Rush

Los Angeles: Wells Fargo is a huge banking conglomerate and quite the tough customer in its own right.  The stagecoach is a clue.  This company is still as roughhewn as the West itself.  There is something of the frontier and cowboy spirit that seeps into the corporate culture.

 At least that’s what ACORN has found in trying to get Wells Fargo Financial to stop its predatory lending practices in the sub-prime lending market.  The problem is not the market.   Sub-prime lending sources are important to many of ACORN’s low and moderate income family members who have had credit problems and uncertain incomes, yet are still desperate to buy a home and to put everything aright again.  There are risks here, and ACORN, more than others, understands that this is all hard work.  Nonetheless nothing excuses abusive, unscrupulous, and predatory profiteering that preys on our people – and, woefully, Wells Fargo is a big part of that.

 Given the best practices and settlements that have been achieved with other subprime lenders like Ameriquest and Household Finance after long hard fights, ACORN believed originally that Wells Fargo might see the sense of settlement.  Unfortunately, our settlement efforts hit impasse and we’re now in litigation.

 When are these companies going to learn that it’s easier to do right, than fight?  And, cheaper in the long run, especially once you make us mad!  And, that’s just what Wells Fargo has seemed intent on doing. 

 To get their attention focused more clearly we sued them in Illinois on June 10th because they were in clear violation of a state law there – along with many other companies! – that said you can’t charge more than 8% interest with 3% fees, yet they were, even in these times of relatively low interest rates.  Still not getting the message, Wells Fargo became the centerpiece action in ACORN’s recent national convention in Los Angeles.

 Last Monday over 2000 ACORN members marched through downtown Los Angeles from City Hall past the new Disney Music Hall to the Wells Fargo building towering over the city center, and hand delivered a national class action suit filed in California that morning in behalf of all of the victims of Wells Fargo’s predatory practices.  A Wells vice-president had drawn the short straw and stood outside their towering building in order to receive a many-hands-delivered copy of the lawsuit.  ACORN President Maude Hurd handed him the lawsuit accompanied by several Wells victims and other ACORN members while thousands chanted, “Wells Fargo, Predatory Lender, Criminal Offender!”

 The West was worth winning, but it was not won just by ruthlessness.  This is a fight that Wells Fargo cannot win.  It will never be right to allow a company to steal money from good people through trickery and slight of hand.  We will see to that.  Long or short, it is just a matter of time before Wells Fargo will have to learn this lesson!

ACORN members march against Wells Fargo’s predatory lending–and serve the lawsuit (below).

Access to Health Care

Los Angeles: On Sunday 1500 ACORN members rendezvoused at famous MacArthur Park near downtown Los Angeles.  Pouring off the busses and standing under the small shade of the trees, breeze blowing, and a score of ice cream carts jingling into action, it seemed like a very, very large and relaxed picnic and park crew enjoying the afternoon.

 But instead this was serious business for a Sunday.  Up the hill from the park a short way was the Daughters of Charity’s St. Vincent Hospital, a nice, clean modern facility looking down from the rise on Pico Union and the lower income neighborhoods that are a shout away from MacArthur Park.  There was a disconnect here.  Daughters of Charity and ACORN with its huge lower income membership should have been a natural partnership not a two forces at odds on a pretty Sunday afternoon.

 But, St. Vincent’s Medical Center unfortunately is not in compliance with the law and denies service to uninsured and routinely dumps such patients on other hospitals, despite its non-profit and favorable tax service requiring the same kind of charity that the Daughters have affixed to their name.  Routine calls – anyone can make them – to the hospital were as routinely referred to other area hospitals once the caller indicated that the prospective and needy patient was uninsured.  Oh, and forget about whether or not in a community like Los Angeles – and many others – there is any offering for the vast mass of callers speaking Spanish to receive translation or any access to service.  Haughty on the hill!

 The Los Angeles Times quoted Dee Dee Ferro, an ACORN member from Bay Point, California stating the basic question as she shouted to her fellow ACORN members:  “I want to know, where is their charity?”  Indeed!

 The hospital conceded that there was no disruption of health care as members from around the country served notice on this hospital and many more to come that they have had enough of both law breakers and hospitals that do not serve those that need the care despite their status.  Several ACORN organizations in various cities like Providence, Baton Rouge, Albuquerque, Chicago, and others have already joined in this effort with particular facilities. It means something special though for this to be a centerpiece action of the national ACORN Convention as thousands marched up the hill to the Daughters of Charity facility under flags moving in the breeze, the sound of chants, and the loudspeakers of the brand new ACORN Mobile Action Centers. 

 Access to healthcare is becoming a signature ACORN campaign, and attention must be paid!

Marching — with the ACORN Mobile Action Center — for health care access.