GE: Pay Your Fair Share

Kim Bobo |

A reflection on Wednesday's action at General Electric's shareholders meeting in Detroit by IWJ's Executive Director Kim Bobo.

I was prepared to get arrested yesterday, but those in leadership decided we would peacefully disrupt (and not do civil disobedience at) General Electric’s shareholders meeting in Detroit. And so we did.

We waited for almost three hours for the meeting to begin. We met at a staging area at 7 a.m. Organizers reminded and updated us going inside on "the plan.” I rode over to the Renaissance Center in the clergy van. Once parked, we joined hands and prayed in the parking lot before going inside. Two Detroit pastors were the designated speakers (preachers) for the inside group. The rest of us in our van were to surround the two pastors to delay their escorts out of the meeting.

We arrived at the meeting check in spot by 8:30 a.m., but they wouldn’t let us go through security until 9:00 a.m. I’m used to security guards — I go through O’Hare airport almost weekly, but this was ridiculous. There were guards and GE staffers everywhere. They confiscated cameras and cellphones, searched our bags, marched us through metal detectors and wanded us all over.

We were finally allowed into the actual meeting room around 9:30 a.m., and the entire front section was already filled up. Somewhere, there was another entrance regular folks weren’t told about.

What a symbol for life. Regular folks have to struggle through all this stuff and meanwhile those in power go through another door and get the front seats!

When the meeting officially opened, one of the pastors, with a serious preacher voice, started scolding the company about paying its fair share. After he was led out, another pastor stood up and began his sermonette. Once he was hauled away, we all chanted, "pay your fair share," and marched out. We were out the door in less than ten minutes.

Outside, there were nearly  1500 protestors and a ridiculous number of guards, police and mounted police. We marched around the building chanting. 

Did it matter? In the short-term, absolutely. Immediately after we left, GE’s treasurer defended its tax payment policies and pledged itself in favor of tax reform. There is awesome media coverage about corporations paying their fair share. In the long-term, the event will matter if we continue to use is to insist on programs, jobs, investments and tax policies that serve the 99 percent.