Gala for the 99%
“We’re bringing it to these board of directors, we’ll be at your social events, when you’re at your golf clubs, it’s not a nine-to-five issue for us, it won’t be for you.”
It was a tale of two Galas at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park last night.
Tickets for the Academy’s official “Big Bang Gala” ranged from a lavish $1,000 to a mind-blowing $100,000 per table. Wealthy guests decked out in tuxedos and evening gowns were served cocktails and a three-course meal as they listened to speeches from the heads of some of the country’s largest corporations. The event was advertised as a “special evening” to “celebrate the leading lights and bright minds making remarkable contributions in the realm of science education” (calacademy.org).
But folks outside of the “Big Bang Gala” saw it quite differently.
A coalition of labor unions, OccupySF, and community groups organized a lively protest – their own “Gala for the 99%” – against the corporate sponsors of the event. In the place of tuxes and fancy drinks, protesters brought a different kind of flare – creative signs, loud chants, and a call for economic justice for workers.
The direct targets of the protest were Walmart and Hyatt, both with a shameful record of worker mistreatment and corporate misconduct. Protesters demanded to speak with Greg Penner – who sits on the board of both companies – and his wife, Carrie Walton-Penner – a co-host of the Gala and a member of the Walton family, the richest in the US and owners of Walmart.
“As Greg Penner eats his fancy dessert, there are workers at Hyatts and Walmarts breaking their backs for his profits,“ said an organizer of the event, “We don’t have $1,000 for a dinner, we need $1,000 for healthcare.”
Another protester further highlighted the difference between the two galas, stating, “We only serve justice and economic fairness at this table!”
Financial evidence backs up this incredible juxtaposition of wealth; while a full-time Walmart worker makes an average of just $15,500 per year, the Walton family is expected to bring in over $2.7 billion this year in Walmart dividends (Walmart1percent.org).
A delegation of workers from Walmart and Hyatt attempted to enter the gala to meet with Penners, but were turned away by the SFPD.
The protest was part of long-running individual boycotts and actions against Hyatt and Walmart, with many actions occurring right here in the Bay Area. Check out www.HyattHurts.org and www.Walmart1Percent.org for more info on these actions.
The protest was also one of the first events in a national “99% Power” campaign, in which protesters will be engaging in direct civic action at the shareholder meetings of targeted abusive corporations.
“We’ve been boycotting and picketing outside of hotels, but the abuse of workers doesn’t just stop when they check out of work, it always affects you,” said Powell DeGange, an organizer with UniteHere Local 2, the union representing hotel workers in San Francisco, “We’re bringing it to these board of directors, we’ll be at your social events, when you’re at your golf clubs, it’s not a nine-to-five issue for us, it won’t be for you.”
The next 99% action is on April 24th, when protestors will attempt to shutdown the Wells Fargo shareholders meeting in San Francisco. More info can be found at www.the99power.org.
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