Javascript Menu by Jim's Eclectic World: October 2012

Welcome to
Magic of Yellowstone
A little bit of

Jim's Eclectic World

My Photo
Location: Bozeman, MT, United States

Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

(or other places to find my writings from the mundane to the supermundane)
  • The Magic of Yellowstone
  • A sample of Jim's writings
  • Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective)
  • June 2005
  • July 2005
  • August 2005
  • September 2005
  • October 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • August 2008
  • October 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • July 2009
  • September 2009
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • November 2011
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2015
  • September 2015
  • April 2017
  • October 2017
  • January 2018
  • October 2019
  • May 2020
  • February 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • December 2023
  • January 2024
  • February 2024
  • March 2024
  • April 2024
  • Powered by Blogger

    Subscribe to
    Posts [Atom]


    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Suggestion for Consensus Organizing

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011
    This arises out of a discussion of the organizing challenges in Occupy Bozeman.  It deals with the question of why numbers dwindle in organizing meetings.  How is it that numbers that can produce meetings often over 30 can dwindle in a relatively short period of time to a group of 15 or less.  The loss of energy can be disheartening and devastating for a group.

    This small essay raises the discussion of a different organizing model, where instead of having a large group of 20 or more get together and reach consensus on every issue, groups start from a model where smaller groups within the larger group have more power and autonomy and can still coordinate together in a larger "general assembly." 

    Groups can diminish for many reasons - infighting, lack of consistency, etc.  However, I think there is another reason that often gets overlooked.

    This is a dynamic I have seen so many times as an organizer. Groups sometimes produce great energy. Then, they have these spectacular meetings, sometimes with large numbers. As the process is consensus or near consensus (I was in a group once that used 80 percent supermajorities), this allows everyone a voice (as it should be.) However, when you have 1 or 2 hours, so many voices, and often many new people unfamiliar with the often complicated meeting process (sometimes coupled with poor facilitation), people get quickly frustrated and disenchanted. They either feel they haven't been heard, or they get frustrated because some people are heard all too much. Consensus in any group can be messy; as numbers grow, the process becomes much more unwieldy. Rather than producing something where everyone is empowered, it actually can produce the opposite. Quieter voices lose out. Less experienced voices lose out. Even more experienced voices can lose out. The decisions made often leave out a frustrated segment that simply grows silent. They don't show up again.

    I once learned in a college sociology class that the maximum number of people that can form a cohesive social group before it inevitably divides is 15 (and often smaller than that.) I don't know if that number is right, but it seems borne out by experience. When the group grows much larger, it becomes disenchanted, or people find different means besides meetings for their empowerment.

    I have never seen a meeting of 30 or more people that was sustainable over time. Individual meetings have worked, but it always seems to come down to a natural social group number.

    This is a huge problem for a movement that wants to empower every voice, needs it to be a mass movement of the 99 percent. It's a huge problem for anyone who believes in consensus.

    The Occupy Movement has often given the most power to its local General Assemblies. That might be a mistaken model because of the reasons I mentioned. When General Assemblies participation grows to more than 15, I'd suggest that it immediately must divide into 2 or more working groups that have their own functional autonomy. When General Assemblies get together then, they should have some kind of spokescouncil function, where each working group empowers someone to speak for the group. Members of the group would still participate and can still block or request a caucus, but it reduces the number of speakers and puts the work at the natural numbers where consensus functions best. It leaves the General Assembly to bascially serve as a coordinating meeting between autonomous groups and for giving its blessing to new groups that might form. It would solve disputes that arise over actions of a working group. It should do nothing more; the real power should be in the consensus of the working groups.

    If we ever find ourselves fortunate to build our meetings up, I'd suggest we ask newcomers to join one of several working groups - of which they'd be free to join or leave. It might be even the job of the internal communications working group to help new people feel at home and help them find a working group. Then, the last part of the meeting - the general assembly - would essentially be a spokescouncil, where the people who can speak for the working group would be empowered to speak (and be reigned in by members of their group.) It would leave time for caucusing that might need to arise.

    This model gives each person a much richer say over consensus and decentralizes the structure so that each voice matters. It also allows for the potential for growth. Each group would be its own functioning collective of sorts that would do its own thing and can use each person's energy to reach out.

    Hopefully, it would make for much happier newcomers so that meetings could be much, much larger and still be okay. If a working group is suddenly more than 15, it should as quickly as possible figure out how to divide into two groups. If groups get too small (no group should be smaller than three), then they should stop working, and people should join the active groups. If necessary movement needs - like outreach - aren't being met, then the existing groups need to pick up the slack.

    I want to put it out there for discussion. I've just seen this too many times over the years, where groups struggle with this, missing the obvious that groups that grow too large alienate people. It's a principle of physics, really. You can't have voice if your voice is too divided over too many people and limited time.
    I'll leave it out there for discussion.



    Sounds great Jim.  Hopefully our numbers will pick back up & we can try to divide!  Glad to have people who have more experience in this sort of thing to help us recognize some of this!  Even in a smaller group, I may not be big on talking.  This movement for me, is helping me find my courage, maybe it will help me find my voice & creativity as well.  :) 

    Looking forward to Wednesday night & seeing everyone!

    Well, that's another thing that movements struggle with ... meetings are not for everyone; a lot more thought has to be given to ways of including the energy of people who simply cannot stomach sitting in meetings or do not best find their voices in them ... that's a hard challenge.  One nice thing about the outdoor meetings was the opportunity for some to spend it talking with the public.  It was an outlet ... coming up with these kinds of useful outlets are great; they are really difficult to implement (I lack a lot of creativity - as I'm someone who functions well in meetings).  In one group, we set aside space for people to draw or doodle or move around during meetings.  It was announced that it was a creative space for people who had trouble sitting still, and so it was a little less distracting.  That had mixed success.

    Anyhow ... a lot to think about ... my only real insight is to say that we need to think hard about how we deal with larger groups of people (and I suspect this has been a problem everywhere to greater and lesser degrees ... some of the methods I suggest arise out of experience in larger cities - where groups sometimes still dwindled to below 15 and would fracture - often bitterly (despite there being a much larger pool of interested people).

    Occupy Bozeman Notes Success in First Action of Wells Fargo Divestment Campaign

    Thursday, March 1, 2012
    Jim Macdonald
    Yesterday, in solidarity with a national day of action called against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Occupy Bozeman held the sidewalk in front of Wells Fargo in its first action of a divestment campaign against the bank. More than two dozen people joined also by a couple media outlets took part in a festive hour of protest, featuring a giant sign tied to the bank edifice which read "Foreclosed."

    Perhaps more importantly, the group heard reports of customers taking their money out of Wells Fargo, in large part inspired by the campaign. Billy McWilliams shared this a day prior to the event over an Occupy Bozeman email list: "I was just at Wells Fargo (I'm a 22-year customer), and they were cranky. They mentioned it [the protest]. 'We just found out that we're going to be occupied.' The teller said that she thought that Occupied was misfocused. I told her that that can cut both ways. I'm going to divest. While I have great sympathy to the folks who work at that branch, Wells Fargo has broken the social contract. Thanks for your fine work!" There were reports of at least one other person divesting as the protest was ongoing.

    Thus, Wells Fargo stayed open throughout the action, giving opportunity for people to remove their money.

    Wells Fargo was targeted for the February 29 - "Shut Down the Corporations" - day of action against ALEC occurring in over 70 cities.  ALEC is a group of many of the largest corporations who work together to draft model legislation to serve the interests of the richest people in the country.  Because Wells Fargo owns a $120 million stake in two private prison corporations who are members of ALEC, one of whom was directly responsible for the anti-immigrant law in Arizona - SB 1070 - and since that coincided with the new divestment campaign against Wells Fargo, Occupy Bozeman chose to combine purposes.

    Wells Fargo, the nation's fourth largest bank and largest mortgage provider, has been the target of a divestment campaign by Occupy Bozeman because of the bank's role in economic injustice in our society. They were and are a huge player in the housing crisis, they continue to hurt consumers through exorbitant fees, engage in all sorts of other nefarious practices over which people have little control, and they are not nearly as good an alternative as many local institutions, particularly credit unions.

    The action on the street was festive. A group of people could be seen much of the action crafting signs. A donated sound system allowed people to speak. Others had the opportunity to have voice in mainstream media interviews being conducted by KBZK (CBS) and NBC Montana. Most public response during the lunchtime action was positive, though one man predictably yelled out the old standby, "Get a job!"

    Occupy Bozeman will return to Wells Fargo at Noon on Wednesday, March 14. The action, still being planned, may involve a march between U.S. Bank - where Montana State University has its accounts - and Wells Fargo. Some sort of street theater is also being planned. Stay tuned, and get involved - see


    Senator Baucus Put on Notice by Occupy Bozeman

    Jim Macdonald
    Wednesday, November 16, 2011


    An Occupy Bozeman activist talks about why she is holding a sign outside of U.S. Sentaor Max Baucus's Bozeman office as well as what she would like to see done by Congress's supercommittee.

    Today, more than a dozen activists from Occupy Bozeman held what they called a vigil outside Senator Max Baucus's Bozeman office at 220 W. Lamme St during the Noon lunch hour.

    As occupy movements across the country focus on corporations, activists in Bozeman are also keeping an eye on the government officials they believe might act on behalf of Wall Street interests. Activists in Bozeman, who staged a small protest outside of Wells Fargo Bank this past Saturday, are watching Baucus's and the Congress's so-called supercommittee's next move closely.
    Baucus, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, and longtime senator from this state, is one of 12 members of Congress on the supercommittee tasked by Congress with proposing $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions over the next 10 years. The committee's proposal then would face an up or down vote in the Congress. If it fails, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts will be triggered.
    Activists at Baucus's office feared that Baucus, a Democrat, might sell out popular social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, while leaving levels of war spending untouched. They also feared that the rich, particularly those on Wall Street, would not be adequately taxed.

    The reasons for concern stem from Baucus's role in pushing through a version of the Affordable Care Act, also known to some as Obamacare, that many argued was actually friendly to the insurance company interests. It left off the table the "public option", which would have given the uninsured the option to take the same health insurance offered to federal employees. In 2001, Baucus also voted for the Bush tax cuts, and in 2008, he voted for permanently repealing the estate tax.

    Perhaps, a bigger source of concern comes when looking at his funding sources. According to, Baucus's leading funder is Aetna - an insurance company. Among his leading contributors include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Verizon. He has raised, in just this cycle alone (2007-2012) millions of dollars from the health sector, but he's also raised $750,669 from Securities and Investment Firms, $438,230 from the Real Estate industry, and another $218,100 from other finance industry interests. In 2005, Baucus returned $18,892 in contributions connected to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including Baucus's use of a sky box at a Washington, DC sports arena.
    Occupy Bozeman activists held signs and received a fair number of approving honks from traffic. A young staffer from Baucus's office came out and took the statements of activists for a computer database that apparently is seen by the senator. It remains to be seen whether the voices of his constituents, or rather the dollars from his funders, will have more influence on his actions. Either way, Baucus has been put on notice that his work on the supercommittee is fair game for Occupy Bozeman.

    Occupy Bozeman will be having their general assembly meeting tonight at 7 PM at the Bozeman Yoga Center, 1716 W. Main, Suite 8a1, just east of 19th Ave. All are welcome to attend and participate.



    At long last intelligent reporting on Senator Baucus' louche connections to moneyed interests.  Thank YOU, Occupy Bozeman, from Virginia.  Thank YOU!!  Please hang tough!

    Max Baucus has been a very unreliable Democrat so I share their concerns about what he would do in the committee.  There are several other Democrats in the Senate who would not help the country for the best result.  President Obama never had the cooperation of Baucus, Ben Nelson and quite often not from Mary Landrieu or the wishy-washy Lieberman. That is why it was very hard to get the Health Care Reform that did include the public option.  Many of the Senate Democrats need to be replaced with Democrats who will do what is important for the middle class and the working poor.  I am tired of the corporate republicans and the few corporate Democrats standing against success for this country in any way. 

    I give these folks participating in Occupy Bozeman a big thumbs up for standing up for the middle class and working poor in this country.

    Wells Fargo and the Loss of Our Voices: One Anarchist's View

    Friday, March 9, 2012
    Jim Macdonald
    In weeks past, I have – in my capacity as a member of Occupy Bozeman – written about many of the reasons why you should get your money out of big banks – particularly Wells Fargo – as part of a divestment campaign we are waging against the bank.  That campaign continues with an action next week, and I have been a good foot soldier for the campaign.

    Today, I write entirely for myself and my analysis of what really drives me to take on this campaign.  In the past, I found myself appealing to the most selfish motives you might have for making a switch.  I have mentioned high fees, high interest rates, and low rates of return.  I have mentioned bailouts and subprime mortgages, investments in private prison companies, in the coal industry, and in fracking.  I mentioned unfair practices toward people with disabilities and African Americans.  I talked about fines and court settlements for wrongful practices.  While all those things are and remain true, the appeal was mostly to address reasons why I think that you the reader might find Wells Fargo objectionable.  I have spoken little of my own motivation.

    I intend to do that in this essay.  However, note that I do not think you need to accept the arguments I am about to give in order to come to the conclusion that getting your money out of Wells Fargo is a good idea.  Nevertheless, I think there are reasons that may be overlooked that need to be brought to light.  We may not always bring them out for fear of hurting the harmony in our organizing environment, realizing that we do not come to the same conclusions for action based on the same reasons.  However, I would be dishonest not to point out my reasons and point us to these aspects of the discussion.

    It is tempting to go into a diatribe against capitalism because at root this is what this is about and in defense of what I am, which is an anarchist.  That is a necessary discussion to have, but it may take us too far adrift for the purposes of this essay.  I want to hone in on an aspect of what big banks represent that I think is critical to talk about while fully well understanding that the issues I raise are really part of a much bigger discussion about the nature of governance, wealth, and our reaction to that world.

    You should get your money out of Wells Fargo and other big banks because the very act of doing so is a direct affirmation of what has been silenced by them – your voice.  The most pernicious thing about banks is not that they make record profits or are deceitful or take care of their investors while hanging you out to dry.  What is most pernicious is that the whole process by which this happens fortifies a system that leaves you out of it, which limits your options to register and act on your disapproval.

    Banks like Wells Fargo have largely become what we so affectionately term “too big to fail.”  While that term has become quaint, I do not think we understand the full import of it.  An institution that has become so large that it cannot be allowed to collapse for fear that it will send us into a depression essentially has become an unofficial arm of our government.  If we cannot do without something for fear of collapse, then it is who and what we are.  That these banks continue to engage in practices that keep the entire system teetering on the edge of collapse, we have much to fear in them because collapse does indeed bring greater economic hardship to those who can least afford more hardship.  It is an untenable situation.  Those held hostage are the people.  As one example, we can easily see how the looming Greek default is being held at bay on the backs of the Greek people.

    Wells Fargo, then, is a non-governmental financial institution that wields enormous leverage and power on the American government.  No matter who you elect into office, the situation does not change.  From George W. Bush to Barack Obama, the Wall Street interests and the financial institutions have held the country hostage.  No one dares to let them collapse for fear of the political implications that arise from an economic superpower suddenly with more starving and jobless people than it already maliciously tolerates.

    Thus, the one manna that most Americans believe is their power, their voice – the vote – is for nothing when it comes to this state of affairs.  Voting, whatever else it might be, is not power to make any change when it comes to a bank like Wells Fargo.  Even if you somehow managed to elect someone who would go after these banks, all you would be doing is setting up the conditions that will hurt the people who least can afford to be hurt.  You will at once be propping up a political and economic system that allows for renegade banks to assert so much leverage, or you will be wiping them out and starting us surely into the storm of depression.  Doing the latter might have some opportunities for the radicals among us to foment our lofty ideals of revolution, but only people with privilege can dare assert that they want the hungriest to become hungrier and the jobless to suffer even more.  It is playing God to the extreme to think that we should manufacture economic crisis for a chance at a systemic change that is not likely to happen from those means.  Look at the Arab Spring where dramatic increases in the price of basic goods drove people into the streets, toppled their governments, and found themselves ruled in most cases by the same ruling classes.  Revolution is a beautiful idea, but it is not as easily attained as some imagine.

    One might argue that maybe you could elect – in some strange world that does not seem to exist in America except in the racist pretenses of the Tea Party in their views of Obama – some socialist who will nationalize the banks and therefore rob them of their pernicious incentive to ruin us and the country.  Thus, instead of a state that tries to keep banks in line through a Central Bank, we simply have another bank of the United States as the sole chartered national bank in the country.  One has to ask, though, even if such a thing were to happen, what would fundamentally change in practice.  Who would still have the most influence on government?  The poor?  In what sense would such a bank then be accountable to the people?  While some of the pernicious incentives might be erased by such a move, it might mean less than what some might imagine.  Wells Fargo and other big banks already are essentially arms of government; they are already institutionalized into the fabric of the country; they already have complete influence over governing.  All you would be changing is the C.E.O.  It would be little less than a nominal change in practice.  Wells Fargo, whether in the private or the public sector, already is welded to the state.  The rich will exert their leverage either way.

    Thus, voting is not synonymous with your voice.  It is not an action that you can take that does anything to restore what is lost in this system.

    As a result, we are left with people in our country who have little say in the governance of their own lives.  We are at the mercy of economic factors out of our control and political factors that keep us muted.  While I can give an anarchist diatribe like this, it’s only because I have been deemed powerless.  We are far from the days when Emma Goldman could be thrown in jail simply for passing out mere information about contraception, when a speech on any subject could get you thrown in jail for years.  Everything is essentially entertainment.  We can choose “taste’s great” or “less filling”; we can pay exorbitant rates to go to sporting matches, buy our cable and our internet where we can be free to watch or say a million things.  Yet, all of that is because we are thoroughly defeated.  When push comes to shove, if the food trucks stop coming, if the jobs go away, if your home is foreclosed – those are the things that really matter to the functioning of life – you really have no say whatsoever.  It is a game ruled by a very small plutocracy.  We have been left helpless and foolish like babbling idiots.  It is no wonder that people care nothing for politics.  Why should they?  People also don’t care about essays like this; what does it matter?  We need our fix; we are junkies in so many ways.  We know the results of American Idol, or The Voice, but very few of us really know our neighbors or each other or believe or even think about whether anything is wrong.  Those who do must because something is very wrong.  They are sleeping homeless in our streets, dying too young on the reservation, and wasting away in prisons (perhaps for succumbing to the socially unacceptable drugs).  They are often too weakened to take action, and most of us go on ignoring the truth we must all know – that we are not really free or secure.

    What action can we take in such a system?  Anything we can do which not only takes power from the system but also puts it in or closer to our hands is an action that not only hurts the system but also empowers us if and when such a system collapses.  Thus, it is not enough to let big banks fail; we have to have means in place to take care of others when those banks fail.  Moving money from one of the banks that are too big to fail into something like a credit union is not some revolutionary move in itself.  Credit unions in the way they function in practice are not some idyllic solution; they are not all as democratic as they seem.  Nevertheless, they represent the right kind of transition.  Moving your money to a place that gives you a greater degree of control over it is a step toward restoring your voice.  It begins the process of transferring the power that banks hold over you back to where it should be – within your community.  Right now, your money goes to fund who knows what – anything and everything.  Shouldn’t it be closer to the space where you live and breathe, where people still hear what your voice sounds like?  Shouldn’t your voice be sounds and melodies coming from your vocal chords, and not an abstract balance sheet in a New York or San Francisco office, or a number on a voting tabulation?

    The decentralization of capital from institutions that are too big to fail to those closer to where we breathe has the effect of wrestling control of the system from giant banks all while avoiding depression.  Developing the means to exert real popular power at the local level gives the means for the community to take care of each other when federal systems begin to fail.

    It is an act that tends to restore voice; of course, it is not enough.  The banks do not represent the be all and end all of political and economic justice.  There are many other things besides.  We have touched on issues like food and shelter.  Exerting greater control over the wealth within the community should offer some leverage to better deal with the problems we all face when the national and global economy collapses (either in part as is often in American history or in whole as it did during the Great Depression).  If we are not completely at the mercy of the whims of policy makers and corporate executives somewhere else, we can actually take steps to do something about the things that matter to us.

    Thus, it seems the first act is simple enough.  Get your money out of a big bank, and move it somewhere else – preferably somewhere like a credit union.  However, the second act, which can happen concurrently with the first, is to organize in your community and take actions together which deal with the needs in your community.  The more we do that now, the more we find our voice, and ironically the more dangerous we become.  Essays like this will no longer simply be for your reading entertainment.  They will be seen as revolutionary calls to arms, the way that disseminating information on contraception was seen in this country only a century ago.  That may be when things get interesting, but let’s get that far.  We need to go that far, or one day – as they are discovering in places like Greece – things will not really be in our control.  The rich will stay rich, somehow, but we will be starving and struggling to survive, much like so many already are – as the system does not ultimately care who thrives so long as those on top stay on top.

    Please take action.  Please get your money out of big banks, and please take action in your community.  I don’t want this essay merely to be an exercise in vanity, which right now is all that it is.



    "Greece, the birthplace of democracy, is now becoming the deathbed of democracy." Did you notice that there was supposed to be a referendum  on whether to bail out the big bankers in Greece, then the dudes in government changed their minds and said WE will decide?
    On one hand there are the power people, those who wish to control us. But on the other hand, there are the slackers, those that don't study issues and refuse to choose. The ignorant ignore and the archdeceivers get tricky... a poor formula for REAL CHANGE...

    10 (Some Are Realistic) Wishes for 2012 in the Bozeman Region

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011
    Jim Macdonald
    The 17th century Scottish philosopher David Hume argued that "ought implies can" meaning that if you are arguing that something ought to happen that first that same something has to be possible.  You cannot say something should happen if it can't happen.

    Here I present 10 things that I'd like to see happen in the next year in the Bozeman region; most of them probably won't happen.  All of them could happen, though many of them are probably out of our control for now.  In that sense, some of these might violate Hume's warning; however, I would argue that all of them could happen if enough of us dared to take the first steps while enough other people dared to follow.
    There are a lot more than 10 things that I wish for; these are the things that come to mind this morning.  They are in no particular order or rank of importance.

    1.  An end to the slaughter and hazing of wild bison and full tolerance in the state of Montana.  For decades, the last continuously wild herd of buffalo have been confined to the cold mountain environs of Yellowstone National Park.  The animals are ready to reclaim some of their lost habitat if only we would let them.  However, the state and federal governments have waged war on wild bison, killing more than 6,000 since the 1980s, and yearly hazing large numbers back into the overgrazed ranges of the park.  All it would take for this wish to come true is the political will to make it happen.  Only policy and the fear of a lot of false bogeymen (like brucellosis) keep the bison from moving out.  This is not at all likely to happen in 2012, even if small steps toward that goal come through (in large part depending on how a lawsuit by Park County turns out.)

    2.  A successful bank divestment campaign in Bozeman against one of the major banks.  Last week, Occupy Bozeman consented on just such a campaign, with the most likely targets in town being either Wells Fargo or U.S. Bancorp.  If such a campaign takes off in the coming weeks and months, look for a lot more talk about the role of banks locally and alternative places to keep money.  Occupy Bozeman has never had an encampment and has conducted only a handful of scattered actions from a large march to a people's microphone inside of Wal-Mart; however, if a regular picket line or similar action causes pain to a major bank, Occupy Bozeman will have undertaken a truly effective occupy action on behalf of the so called 99 percent.  A campaign like this is always an uphill battle, but its success is not outside the realm of possibility.

    3. An end to the war in Afghanistan and a return home of any soldiers serving overseas.  The waste that was the Iraq war finally came to an end after eight and one-half years; the war in Afghanistan is now 10 years long and growing.  While there has been the beginning of a troop draw down, there are still a lot of troops in Afghanistan, where there is still a lot of killing and dying.  Add to that the secret wars going on in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, with recent military actions in Libya, and the call by several - particularly Republican presidential candidates not named Ron Paul - for action in Iran, Syria, or both (and uncertainty in North Korea), and there's a lot to worry about here.  The anti-war movement failed to put any dent whatsoever into the war machine; at best, it helped affect recruitment numbers over a short period (though not enough to matter).  It is far from likely that activists in Bozeman can do much particularly with limited resources, but success would always be possible.  It's just not at all likely.

    4.  A full recognition and respect for Bozeman's homeless population, as well as recognition of the cost of living problem in our community.  Bozeman is among the most expensive - if not the most expensive - areas to live in all of Montana.  While wages are relatively modest by a national scale, cost of living continues to skyrocket.  Bozeman lacks adequate facilities to serve homeless populations, needs that go well beyond food and shelter.  There is a lack of adequate and affordable health care (particularly mental health care) as well.  Bozeman projects affluence, but the truth is that we live in an economically diverse town with a lot of people struggling to get by.  Housing prices may not be rising like they were earlier in the decade, but they are still too high for many people particularly given the wage scale in the area.  Many jobs do not pay a living wage of at least $12/hour (minimum), and health care costs for everyone continue to explode.  People are taking steps to address some of the issues, but Bozeman chugs along mostly in denial, particularly as many here have simply not been as hurt by the recession as they have in other parts of the country.  I wish that we would recognize not only what the top one percent have that the rest of us don't, but also what the bottom one or five or ten or twenty percent don't have that some of us do.

    5.  Greater respect for our First People's not only by respecting treaties but also by making an effort to come to terms with centuries of genocide (particularly assimilation).  Some would object to my use of the word genocide to describe what happened to Native Americans; however, the truth is that populations in the Western Hemisphere of indigenous peoples from 1492 on fell by some 98 percent and by over 90 percent north of the Mexican border due in large part to policies designed to wipe out native peoples.  From massacres to the spreading of small pox blankets to forced removal to forced debt and the reservation system to blood quantums, it is simply a misunderstanding of the definition of genocide to say that those descended from the original inhabitants have suffered anything less.  What's worse,  native cultures have lost so many of their traditions due to policies over the centuries that intended to integrate American Indians into the dominant practices of Euroamerican culture.  Children were forced into schools; treaties were written to force tribes to learn the ways of the "white man."  In many cases, languages have been lost.  In Montana, tribes that relied on the buffalo have no access to them.  Bozeman itself was founded because a trail was illegally set up to get settlers to mines near Virginia City.  So much has to be done to come to terms with our past (and our present) that one year could only be a start.  It could start first by respecting the sovereignty of the tribes and by taking steps to facilitate tribes who want to stay in touch with their traditions.  Letting bison roam would be a huge start.  Working with tribal leaders on education of traditional languages, arts, and ways of doing things would be another.  Ultimately, though, it will take a different attitude toward land.  Montana is a wild place; the less confined everything is to parcels of protected property the better.  A commons view toward land might be the largest step any of us could take toward rectifying the causes that have produced this genocide.

    6. A more unionized workforce in Bozeman.  One reason that there's such an economic disparity in Bozeman is that most workers in this town are not members of a union.  They do not struggle together for their own good.  In some local cases here in Bozeman, workers have chosen not to unionize because the word "union" has such a negative connotation.  The problem is, of course, that workers don't see a union for what it is intended to be - a way for them to work together for their own benefit.  As long as workers in this town continue to be at the whims of management - who have little incentive, particularly in this economy, to care - the economic problems beneath the surface of this town will continue to fester.  All workers, whatever their job, should unionize.  It wasn't that many ages ago in Butte where even the bartenders and waitresses were all unionized.  Bozeman would be better off if we went that route, and the more connected workers are as workers, the better.  If people do not want to support the narrow focus of trade unions, join a more general union like the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) - which believe it or not DOES exist in Bozeman.  The opportunity is there; will people organize to serve their own and their community's better self interest?

    7. An end to violence against women both here and elsewhere and zero tolerance for it in our community.  I moved to Bozeman four years ago, having lived the previous seven plus in Washington, DC.  Crime is no doubt more of a problem in many respects in the nation's capital.  However, before I moved, I checked out crime statistics.  There is one crime stat that was per capita higher in Bozeman than it was in Washington; that crime is rape.  That can only be true in a town as otherwise safe as Bozeman because there must be something culturally tolerated about violence against women.  I doubt that anyone in Bozeman thinks that rape is okay, but are women believed when violence occurs?  How are they treated?  Do friends stand by them, or do they give the male the benefit of the doubt?  Is there a "boys will be boys" attitude?  Whatever the reason, this cannot be tolerated at all by our community.  If we are going to take action on any of the other things listed but don't stand against violence and disrespect of women, then all we are doing is for nothing.  From the parties on campus to our homes, we must be strong against the most demeaning violence that continues to be perpetrated and tolerated in our society.  There's no reason we can't be doing more in Bozeman.  It starts first by providing a safe place for survivors to come forward - not just institutions but rather in our social circles - and by maintaining that safe place by not placating the men who do such things.  We need to take this seriously.

    8. No racism tolerated.  To Bozeman's deep credit, when the Creativity Movement has intimidated local people of color in recent years, community reaction has been swift and decisive.  In 2009, in response to racist action in Bozeman, organizers from every corner of the community (from radicals to the city's elected officials) came together in a march of more than 800 that intimidated the racists out of the town.  Racism, though, goes beyond the more overt forms that the city has risen against.  In the early decades of Bozeman, there was once a Chinese population of about 30 percent.   Now, the city has quite low racial diversity, much of the diversity that does exist due to the presence of Montana State University.  Racist laws eventually drove out the Chinese population.  Now, we don't have such laws, but because Bozeman is a place with such a high cost of living and perhaps myriad other reasons, Bozeman is nowhere near as diverse as it once was.  It is not that racial justice is measured simply by numbers or strictly by diversity, but it would do us all good to look at the reality of what people of color face and why Bozeman might not be particularly an attractive or welcoming place to be for the larger populations of color in our society.  Given this country's and city's history of racial injustice, it is important that we all look at the ways each of us may unwittingly be perpetrating the effects of that history.

    9. A physical space for community organizing in Bozeman.  This independent media site began as a first step toward facilitating community action in the Bozeman region.  All of us believe that that step will die without further steps.  The most crucial, many of us feel, is for us to get real physical space for organizing and for building community.  Because more than half of Bozeman's population did not live here 10 years ago, people generally neither know each other nor have strong roots in the community.  The cold nights keep people from hanging out on their back porches; neighbors are often strangers.  To build community, there needs to be places where the community can gather.  For those of us who care about making changes in our community, a space is crucially important.  While this wish for 2012 seems more than possible, it is a huge challenge because of the cost of acquiring and maintaining such a space.  Occupy movements attempted to rectify this problem through tent cities only to be evicted in most of the places they have sprung up.  A more permanent structure for media, with library resources, meeting rooms, a lounge, and even a garden (in solidarity with Bozeman's large and growing food movement) is essential toward facilitating the many efforts that people in this town are taking to help this community.

    10. To hike and camp as much as possible.  This is such a cliche Bozeman wish, and people here do an excellent job of following through.  Nevertheless, I never want to lose touch with the beauty of this place.  I fell in love with Yellowstone working five summers in the 1990s; I'm even more in love with this place today.  The land here motivates the other nine wishes as much as any other.  So often, people disconnect this wish from the other nine.  I have heard it said, "That other stuff will cloud you; just be one with the snow."  The truth is that the snow is most beautiful when you know it's there for everyone.   At the same time, why are we doing any of the other things if we are not doing it to experience the world around us through our senses?  I want to climb again up Baldy Mountain with my son and ski through Hyalite, take backcountry trips in the park and take an excursion up to Glacier.  I want to hike in the Beartooths and camp among the bears.  I want to smell the sulfur and feel the spray of the hundreds of waterfalls.  I want to hide in canyon caves and lie under the Milky Way.  This wish I know I can make happen.  By working on the other nine, those experiences will be all the more special.

    So, those are my ten wishes.  What are some of yours?



    As a hippie from the 'Sixties, I wish this big bumblers, like the unions, like the UN, and certainly like both political parties, would not be so easily taken over by the power elite. These suckers are sitting ducks, stuck in the swamp of materialism, to be infiltrated by the wheelers and dealers, or simply the greedy. The elite are clever enough to see where maleable power centers lie...

    The labor unions have often been undercut, packaged and made a mockery of by people that don't have the best interests of the 99% in mind. Perhaps I AM WAR WEARY (After all, I did get arrested for protesting the Viet Nam war!) but I think the scene is deeper than what a few well wishers make of it...

    Did you say change?


    Foreclose on Wells Fargo: So Many Reasons to Divest

    Friday, February 10, 2012
    Jim Macdonald
    (download mp3 audio recording of essay -  length: 17:07)
    There are a lot of reasons to get your money out of the big banks – starting in Bozeman with Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank – but I don’t think people realize just how many reasons there are.  Let’s look at Wells Fargo, in particular, where Occupy Bozeman has put out a call to divest.

    I think everyone knows that Wells Fargo took over $35 billion in bailout money and is neck deep in the housing crisis – most recently being a party to a $26 billion settlement for a lawsuit brought by all 50 states regarding improprieties with foreclosures.  What people don’t necessarily know, however, is Wells Fargo’s poor record on the environment, its ownership stake of corporations in the private prison industry, and charges it faces of discriminatory lending to African Americans and discriminatory practices against people with disabilities.  Wells Fargo also spends a lot of the money it makes from your accounts on lobbying and political contributions.  People may not know just how much money Wells Fargo makes from these practices, and they may not know that not every financial institution functions this way.  There are alternatives to all these things, as well as to the high fees, low rates of return, and poor customer service that are also the hallmarks of Wells Fargo.

    In brief, Wells Fargo contributes to economic disparity in this country.  A first step toward economic justice in our community requires you to divest from Wells Fargo and other big banks.  That will help our region, too, because it will keep your money here.  More importantly, though, if a divestment campaign like this works – and evidence is that divestment campaigns like this are beginning to take hold – we will actually be taking a concrete step toward empowering the people rather than the economic interests of the one percent.  It will represent a dramatic shift toward embracing an economy that considers the community stakeholders first rather than the one we have now that enriches the most affluent at the expense of everyone else.
    Let us take a look at some of the reasons why you should divest from big banks in general and Wells Fargo in particular.

    Wells Fargo Bank, headquartered in San Francisco, is the fourth largest bank in the United States and is the country’s largest mortgage provider.  Last year, Wells Fargo’s net income was approximately $15 billion from $73 billion in gross profits.

    Whatever you feel about profit, the bank ultimately is there not to serve its customers but to provide a profit for its shareholders.  Therefore, there are often incentives for a bank to take actions that are not necessarily to the benefit of many of the bank's own customers.

    That is how Wells Fargo has been implicated repeatedly in the housing crisis.  Wells Fargo, like other big banks, engaged heavily in the subprime loans that precipitated much of the economic downturn.  In fact, in July 2011, the Federal Reserve levied an $85 million fine, the largest ever of its type, against Wells Fargo for falsifying documents and pushing borrowers to the high-interest subprime loans.  Worse than that, there are charges that Wells Fargo has specifically targeted poorer, particularly African American, borrowers for these bad mortgages.  The charges are serious enough that the Department of Justice is currently investigating Wells Fargo on those charges.

    Wells Fargo could do this to customers even if they believed that the buyer would default because it turned around and sold many of those mortgages to other investors, thus turning a profit.  In many cases, the customers would have qualified for a lower interest loan, but Wells Fargo still steered people to the subprime loans because more money was to be made from it with very little consequence.  For when the bottom fell out and banks were beginning to wobble and fail, most of those banks were deemed too big to fail, and so there were very few consequences.  Wells Fargo received $36.9 billion in the bailout.  Then, the government arranged the sale of Wachovia - a bank that was failing - to Wells Fargo in a sweet deal of about $1 per share.  There were also relatively few legal consequences.  An $85 million fine is nothing for a company that nets over $15 billion a year.  Even a $4 billion share in a $26 billion settlement comes out to only $2,000 per person - a small consolation for ruining people's lives.  It only amounts to one quarter of profits, and it was money the bank had already saved and accounted for.

    The recent $26 billion settlement has to do with how Wells Fargo and other big banks dealt with foreclosing the properties of people who could no longer afford their homes because of high interest rates, a precipitous drop in home values, a lack of buyers, and the subsequent loss of jobs.  Wells Fargo and other big banks often falsified foreclosure documents and repossessed homes with either fraudulent or incomplete documentation.  They have also been very slow at working with homeowners on reducing their mortgage payments - part of a federal program in which Wells Fargo is supposed to be participating called HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program).

    When Wells Fargo finally forecloses on a home, many of these homes sit vacant as real estate owned properties (REOs).  While Bozeman has a great shortage of space available for rent and a problem with affordable housing, Wells Fargo and other REOs sit vacant.  Others are up for auction, and still others sit there with their owners waiting to be repossessed.

    Most people, however, have some knowledge that Wells Fargo has been a big bank that's continued to profit despite hurting customers, particularly related to its mortgage business.  However, there are even more things to consider that are less well known.  Some of those are directly related to Wells Fargo's practices, some are related much more generally to the nature of banks.  Not all financial institutions are the same; there are key things that make a credit union - for instance - distinct from a huge bank like Wells Fargo.

    Let's start with Wells Fargo's record on the environment.  When we think of banks, we do not typically think of environmental impact; nevertheless, because banks finance all kinds of projects, we can see what kinds of projects that Wells Fargo finances.  All big banks brag about their environmental record, and Wells Fargo is no exception.  There is no doubt that corporations have the luxury to do many things - both good and bad.  Nevertheless, there are some things you might consider.  Wells Fargo is a large financier of the coal industry, a distinction that led one report to list Wells Fargo as the 19th worst polluting bank in the world.  The Rainforest Action Network has criticized Wells Fargo for financing illegal logging projects in Indonesia.  On the issue of natural gas hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), Wells Fargo has funded Chesapeake Energy all while being one of the leading lenders who will not give mortgages for homes with gas leases.  They seem to know a home where fracking occurs is a bad investment all while funding the practice.

    Wells Fargo also has the distinction of having an ownership stake in two private prison corporations.  They have $120 million in investments in the GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America.  These private prison corporations house inmates and detain undocumented immigrants for a profit at government expense and use their political connections to influence policies on crime and immigration.  This has been particularly true in Arizona, where the Corrections Corporation of America has had a cozy relationship with Gov. Jan Brewer and may have used its influence to pass one of the harshest and most notorious anti-immigrant bills in the country, SB 1070.  Activists in Arizona have as a result not only called on Wells Fargo to divest from the private prison industry but also on customers to divest their money from Wells Fargo altogether.

    If all that is not enough, last year Wells Fargo settled a case brought by some disabled customers.  The suit brought by people who were deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities alleged that Wells Fargo refused to accommodate them in telephone services.  This suit was settled for $16 million.
    Is it necessary to add that Wells Fargo is spending more money on lobbying politicians than ever before and does its fair share of contributing to political candidates?

    We could go on and on.

    All of that may make no difference to you if Wells Fargo were a good choice for you and your money.  Certainly, no one can compete with the convenience that big banks provide in offering many branches, many ATMs, and a wide array of financial services.  Many people may opt for a big bank if they only live in the area seasonally or must travel a lot for work, if only to avoid ATM fees.  Banks may stay open longer, and online banking may be more robust. 

    However, these positives may actually be more costly to you and yield less return than other financial choices, particularly credit unions.  Indeed, report after report after report show that fees and interest rates at big banks are higher, while rates of return are lower.  Whatever you save from ATM fees (and local credit unions are often part of national networks and sometimes will reimburse ATM fees), you are losing many times over in the ways that banks like Wells Fargo skim from you.

    The biggest reason that a bank like Wells Fargo is so expensive relative to a credit union is that credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions.  They are not sharing their profits with shareholders somewhere else.  Instead, they pass the savings to their members, who also as members have some say in their governance.  Credit unions also have no incentive to ruin you through risky mortgages or other exotic financial instruments.

    Something else working in favor of putting your money somewhere small rather than somewhere large is that very little of the money you put into a big bank stays in the local region.  In other words, the money you spend gets put somewhere else.  It gets put into the pockets of wealthy investors, into the hands of polluters, and into the hands of the private prison industry.  It goes lots of other places as well, but you get the point.  If you keep your money in some local context, you should better be able to take action against any abusive use of that money.

    It is an understatement, then, to say that there are a lot of reasons to take your money out of Wells Fargo and other similar big banks.  We have seen that although Wells Fargo has been fined or settled out of court repeatedly that these sanctions do not make a dent in their profits.  The only leverage that we can exert is to make a concerted effort to divest.  So long as we give permission to Wells Fargo, they will continue to engage in activities that create the economic hardships we have seen, that widen the gulf between rich and poor, that pollute our air and water, and that abuse those most vulnerable in our society.  Without our money, at least they will not be able to do these things in Bozeman.

    One worry about such campaigns is the fear that we may not have the power to do enough and that Wells Fargo will continue to churn out record profits no matter what we do.  Fortunately, Occupy Bozeman is hardly the first group in recent months to propose divestment.  Last fall's Bank Transfer Day, where many thousands of people moved their money from big banks to credit unions, was more than a blip on the radar.  In fact, credit union membership is rising.  So, there already is a wave away from big banks.  The wave, however, is not yet big enough.  We need to help it along and need to take creative action here in Bozeman that will foreclose the only properties that should be foreclosed - the big banks, starting with the biggest - Wells Fargo.

    Stopping Wells Fargo by itself will not bring economic justice to our community.  It will not by itself end the class gap or bring an end to the evils in the economic and financial system.  However, it can be an important start toward that goal.  If a bank like Wells Fargo can no longer operate in Bozeman, it will have taken massive community support.  That will say at least two things.  One, it will show people that Bozeman is a place that values its community and is serious about economic justice.  Two, in building a strong community movement around this issue, it will provide a forum where the many other issues of economic injustice can be heard, discussed, and acted upon.  We will not be a community that considers the expedience of a few more ATMs to mean more than justice.

    If you want to help, it starts by getting your own money out of a big bank.  It then continues by talking with your friends and sharing this and other information with them.  However, more than that, there will be opportunities for more action against Wells Fargo.  These things are being discussed at every weekly Occupy Bozeman General Assembly.  You have the opportunity to do something.  What's more, if you don't, we see what the consequences are.  Because we give so much money to the big banks, a lot of people are hurting.  You can be part of the solution; do not be part of the problem.  It is hard enough taking on a huge corporation; it is impossible if those in our community enable them.
    There are so many reasons to take your money out of Wells Fargo.  For all the information we are finding related to our divestment campaign against Wells Fargo, you can start your own (and contribute to our) research at



    Didya notice how many of us older people are standing on our hind legs and saying, "This financial system is botched up big time!"? We have been eyeing this kind of information (above) for decades, shaking our head, saying OH GOD Tell us it ain't true, and then going on with our business. But now we get it thru our thick skulls that something is rotten in Den, ah, that den of thieves in International banking.

    I hope it doesn't take the kids, ah, young folk decades to decide. Especially with the bait of living the American Dream --and ignoring world conditions-- dangling in front of them. Did I ever tell you about the one of how the middle class has been put as a buffer between the super rich and the abject poor? The bright kids get so enthused about becoming filthy rich, and so frightened of falling behind in the rat race, that they ignore The Big Picture.

    LOVE, the little guy...

    Parallels of Bison and Occupy Protesters

    Monday, November 14, 2011
    Jim Macdonald
    I wake up this morning to stories around the country of forced removal of occupy protesters from their encampments on public space.  These range from Occupy Portland being forced out of their park, to "tactical team raids" on Occupy Chapel Hill.  Occupy Oakland is bracing for a similar forced removal.  These are either exciting or depressing times depending on your vantage.

    I am going to say something that will make some of you cringe.  What's happening in the field with our friends in the street is essentially the same as what happens every single year to some non-human local inhabitants to our region.  Please hear me out, though.  Wild bison are not allowed to occupy the public spaces in Montana, are forced from one space to another every year (through a vile practice known as hazing), and are often lethally removed (either from the canned hunts or by shipment to slaughter).

    But, are these really the same things?  Can you compare the political struggle of people to the struggle for survival of a species?  Isn't it a tortured metaphor?

    It is not a tortured metaphor in at least one crucial respect.  Bison are persecuted (as well as sometimes the human activists with Buffalo Field Campaign - of which I often volunteer) for the protection of the interests of the wealthiest among us.  Though there are no cattle west of the park except in the summer (and even then at miniscule numbers) and a few dozen north of the park (held by two owners - one of whom is on the record as supporting wild bison; the other, at least thinks that it should be allowed so long as he's taken care of), the interests of Montana's billion dollar livestock industry have maintained the false bogeyman of brucellosis transmission to cattle by bison (something that's never happened in the wild) as a reason for millions of dollars in government spending to keep bison locked into Yellowstone National Park.  When they venture to claim Montana public lands for escaping winter's brutality, for giving birth to calves in the spring, to achieve their own myriad reasons for wanderlust, the government cracks down.  They do so under the guise that it's a health and safety issue.  They sometimes show varying levels of tolerance before inevitably moving in.  They do so with law enforcement agents, helicopters, men and women on horseback, and they drive those bison back - sometimes injuring them, sometimes driving calves from their mothers (or a cow/calf pair from its herd).  They sometimes round them up and test them and fit them with tags and collars.  (They do many worse things besides).

    The point here, though, is simple.  The reason for these removals is to protect the power of capital, even to the point of absurdity.  What are some tents on a public park really going to do to bring down the power of corporations?  They don't do anything in themselves anymore than some bison eating grass on national forest lands do.  Yet, allow these people to stay, allow them to organize, allow them to discover community and means for resisting that power, and the corporations perhaps rightly fear that the next steps won't be so pretty.  If bison were truly allowed to roam, the way humans capitalize on land, the way they capitalize on other animals, might be thrown into doubt if bison were allowed to compete on grass - if wildness was allowed to infect the way civilization reduces land to acres of neat little squares.

    It's ultimately about the grotesque power that the wealthy hold over the commons, over public spaces, over public institutions.  That's what the occupy movement is about; that's what the struggle of bison has always been about (ever since they were driven to the point of extinction in order to force Native Americans onto their reserved parcels of land and off of the vast commons that once existed on the North American continent.)

    So, for those of us in this region, I hope we'll see the connection of what our shaggy friends face every year as they try to occupy habitat in Montana.  No, they are just trying to survive; they are not trying to bring down corporate greed.  Corporate greed, nevertheless, is why they are forced away.

    And, to those of you at occupy encampments facing or digging in against forced removal, my sense of solidarity for you right now couldn't be stronger.  Please be strong; and like the bison, never stop coming back.


    People's Microphone inside Wal-Mart Courtesy of Occupy Bozeman

    Friday, November 25, 2011
    Jim Macdonald
    At 12:15 PM on Black Friday, about 15 activists with Occupy Bozeman conducted a "people's microphone" at Wal-Mart to call attention to Wal-Mart's unfair labor practices.
    Occupy Bozeman members congregated near the electronics area and chanted slogans back and forth to each other against Wal-Mart as hundreds of shoppers and a few workers stopped to take notice.  Managers were soon on the scene, and the group was escorted out as they continued chanting all the way through the store.

    Occupy Bozeman, which has held similar actions in recent weeks outside of Wells Fargo bank and another at an office of U.S. Senator Max Baucus, was there to call attention to Wal-Mart's labor practices.  Many were there also to call on locals to shop locally.
    Wal-Mart, based out of Bentonville, Ark., is the largest company in Fortune's Global 500 and employees some 2,100,000 workers.

    Though Wal-Mart provides many jobs, they have been the target of many workers' rights groups over the years, particularly those supporting a living wage.  Wal-Mart has countered that the low prices they pass on to consumers justifies lower wages.  While escorting protesters off of Wal-Mart property, a Wal-Mart manager defended her company's practices saying, "We pay our workers better than Target."
    An April 2011 study by the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research Education found that if Wal-Mart paid a living wage of $12 per hour, the cost to consumers would only be an extra 46 cents per visit and $12.49 per year.

    Wal-Mart has also been targeted for its use of sweatshop labor.  Wal-Mart, for instance, uses two subcontractors from Bangladesh - The Nassa Group and The Envoy Group - who pay workers Bangladesh's minimum wage of 20 cents an hour.  Though cost of living in Bangladesh is much less than the United States, 20 cents an hour has been found not to be a living wage, failing to cover that worker's nutritional needs.

    Wal-Mart has also been criticized in the United States for paying women less than men in similar positions and for not promoting as many women as men, even though women make up more than half of Wal-Mart's labor force.  A class action suit against Wal-Mart, however, was thrown out by the Supreme Court this past June on the grounds that the women cannot properly constitute a class.

    In response to this pressure, the New York Times reported in September that Wal-Mart is rolling out "women-friendly plans" to buy more from women-owned businesses and to help women who work for Wal-Mart's suppliers.  For instance, one supplier in El Salvador reportedly makes female employees take pregnancy tests while paying them only 15 cents per pair of pants produced.

    Wal-Mart has also been notorious to the lengths it will go to stop workers from unionizing.  In 2005, a store in Quebec was certified as the only Wal-Mart union shop at that time in North America.  Wal-Mart closed that store within a few months of unionizing.  However, in other countries, Wal-Mart does have unionized stores.  One executive explains, "In that market, that's what the associates want, and that's the prevailing practice."  That hasn't stopped them from going after workers in the United States who have a legal right to unionize if they so choose.

    Many of the Occupy Bozeman activists held signs urging people to shop locally.  The concern that Wal-Mart may drive people out of business and even in cases out of their homes has come up in news this week out of the nation's capital.  There, a Washington Post report notes that Wal-Mart is promising 1,800 jobs, job-training programs, and a slew of other perks to city residents in return for being allowed to build its first stores in economically depressed parts of the nation's capital.  Despite the jobs and promises, several grassroots groups have risen up against Wal-Mart.  They note that none of Wal-Mart's promises is legally binding.  Other opponents have feared gentrification.  About five years ago, when big box stores Target and Best Buy moved into Washington's Columbia Heights neighborhood, rents skyrocketed, forcing out large numbers of long-term residents, many of whom were people of color.

    After being escorted all the way to the road by Wal-Mart management, activists set up on the road at the busy intersection of Oak and 7th, though relatively far from the main building.  For a short while, management stayed within sight.

    Occupy Bozeman has its next General Assembly meeting Saturday at 12 Noon at Soroptimist Park (Rouse and Main).  All are welcome to attend and participate.  Afterwards at 2 PM, Occupy Bozeman is screening the documentary movie Inside Job, which looks at the roots of the financial crisis that started in 2008.

    Occupy Bozeman at Walmart Black Friday 11.25.11.mp4