Sara Appel, a graduate instructor at Duke University, plans to close her Wells Fargo bank account this week. It wasn't a difficult decision, she said. She'd never opened one.
The 32-year-old literature grad student, had been a Wachovia customer for several years and only became a Wells Fargo client when the California-based bank bought Wachovia.
"One day I was a Wachovia customer and then I was a Wells Fargo customer, whether I liked it or not," she said.
Next Saturday (Nov. 12) , organizers with movemoneydurham.org, part of Occupy Durham, hope others will join Appel, as the movement seeks to move money from big banks to local banks and credit unions.
About 75 people attended a rally yesterday in CCB Plaza, where credit unions provided information on their services. Among protesters' main points, printed on a flier at the rally, were these:
- Credit unions are nonprofits; banks are for profit.
- Credit unions educate their members; banks have negotiated mortgages even though they gave borrowers mortgages they would be unable to pay back.
- Credit unions reinvest in their communites; most major banks took a government bailout but retain "staggering profits."
"I think banks are banking on us forgetting what happened a few years ago," said Appel, one of the organizers. "They're responsible for the situation we're in."
Nationwide, credit unions are benefiting from consumer frustration, The Sacramento Bee reported last week. An estimated 650,000 people have joined credit unions since Sept. 29 and shifted $4.5 billion into new savings accounts, according to the California Credit Union League.
The shift of dollars from national banks to local ones and credit unions benefits local economies, said Joseph Penbera, an economist and Fresno State professor. More of the money stays closer to the community, rather than going to a national headquarters, he said. And since community banks and credit unions tend to have lower fees and rates on things such as auto loans, there's more money for people to spend on local restaurants and retailers, The Bee reported.
"It's a beautiful thing," said Durham filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman, a member of the Latino Community Credit Union, based just blocks away from Saturday's downtown rally.
"In the banks the decisions are made by whoever has more money," he told the plaza crowd. "The decisions are made by the 1 percent. In a credit union, you are a member, not a client."
This coming Saturday's event (Nov. 12) begins with a 10 a.m. march to Wells Fargo accompanying however many people show up to close their accounts. Yesterday the crowd erupted in boos as a city bus wrapped in the bank's red logo rolled down the street.
Organizers don't expect a big crowd to close accounts this Saturday and said they have not tried talking to Wells Fargo or other banks as they encourage the shift to credit unions.
"A larger goal is to show solidarity with the movement around the country," said Alex Kotch, 28. "We'd rather work to a different solution than try to fix something that is unfixable."