On December 12, I brought forward an ordinance to divest the City of Seattle from Wells Fargo, due to their investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline and a series of other unethical banking practices. The ordinance also changes the City’s financial policies to make social justice concerns a factor when choosing where to deposit public funds. Council voted to add it to the introduction and referral calendar, which means it will be brought to committee for discussion in January. See my remarks below.
The United States Army Corp of Engineers finally took the step of denying an easement to the destructive Dakota Access Pipeline. This victory is entirely due for the heroic activism of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, environmental activists, and other indigenous activists, some of whom are here in this room, and most recently 2,000 veterans who traveled to Standing Rock to act as human shields.
They have withstood blizzards, police repression, and attacks from private militarized security forces. They have been bitten by attack dogs, pepper-sprayed, subjected to mass arrests — even for praying. But they have courageously stood strong, and shown that when we build organized movements willing to fight, we can win.
Elected officials nationwide owe it to the activists to stand with them. One clear way this City Council can do that is by divesting the City of Seattle from Wells Fargo, which also happens to be one of the principal financial backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Just two months ago, Wells Fargo was found to have defrauded millions of small account holders across the country, opening fake bank accounts and charging additional fees. In an egregious anti-worker response to this charge, Wells Fargo fired 5,300 of its ordinary employees (like tellers), while not a single executive responsible for this fiasco was held accountable.
In 2012, The US Department of Justice found Wells Fargo guilty of charging black and Latino people higher rates and fees on mortgages even when they qualified for better deals during the housing boom.
The City of Seattle can make a strong commitment to environmental, economic, and racial justice by moving the $3 billion currently held in deposits with Wells Fargo to a financial institution that has the required social justice record. Other cities like Minneapolis and states like California are considering similar measures.
This ordinance will announce our intention to not renew Wells Fargo’s contract as the City’s bank when the contract expires in 2018, and will change our financial policies, so that we can select a bank using much stronger social justice criteria. The ordinance would be discussed and voted on in January, as President Harrell said, but, by voting to introduce it today on the Council calendar, the City Council will send a clear warning signal to the Dakota Access Pipeline executives and the oil lobby, and a message of solidarity to the courageous activists on the ground.
The pipeline executives have arrogantly announced they intend to wait until Trump comes to power, with the hope that his new administration will reverse the Army Corps’ decision. By urgently taking steps to divest from Wells Fargo, starting today, our city will have taken an important step against Trump’s agenda. Therefore, I urge Councilmembers to vote to add this item to the introduction and referral calendar.