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AFL-CIO Plans Rallies on Social Security

March 16, 2005|From Bloomberg News

The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor union, plans public protests against Charles Schwab Corp. and Wachovia Corp. because the companies back President Bush's plan for private Social Security accounts, a union official said Tuesday.

The union on March 31 will hold at least 50 events in dozens of cities, including rallies outside Schwab and Wachovia headquarters, as it intensifies a campaign against financial companies supporting Bush's plan, said Bill Patterson, AFL-CIO director of investment in Washington.

The union is trying to choke off funding to the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, the main business group backing the Bush plan. This month, Edward Jones & Co. and Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. withdrew from the group, which no longer lists members on its website.

"The campaign to sell this by the White House has not been firing all cylinders," said Ethan Siegal, president of the Washington Exchange, a Bethesda, Md.-based group that tracks federal policy for institutional investors. "It gave the unions an opening to pressure and use their political muscle."

The labor group's main target is San Francisco-based Schwab, "the poster child of the push by Wall Street firms to promote privatization," said Suzanne Ffolkes, an AFL-CIO spokeswoman. The union expects at least 1,500 demonstrators outside Schwab headquarters and dozens more outside Wachovia offices including the company's headquarters in Charlotte, N.C..

Glen Mathison, a Schwab spokesman, said the union's efforts were misguided.

"The membership was solely an effort to stay plugged into and current on the debate on this issue," he said. "It does not and has never signaled our support for any particular proposal for Social Security. We have not taken a position."

Wachovia spokeswoman Carrie Ruddy declined to comment.

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