Area leaders to join growing national movement to call for corporate accountability
Buffalo, NY— A coalition of community and faith leaders joined a nationwide effort to hold corporations accountable with an action and press conference at the National Fuel Gas headquarters at 6363 Main Street in Williamsville. Following the 99% Spring trainings and actions that have trained over 100,000 people in non-violent direct action principles across the country and confronted corporate power at shareholder meetings, hundreds of local grassroots leaders, workers, and community and faith leaders held multiple actions National Fuel and Verizon, corporations in Buffalo that are part of the 1% richest and most unaccountable companies.
“As people of faith and community leaders, we are troubled by the anti-community and anti-worker decisions of corporations like Verizon and National Fuel,” said Reverend Merle Showers, a minister at Niagara Frontier City Ministries. “If these companies are to remain fixtures in our communities, they must be good corporate citizens and put people first instead of putting profits over people.”
During a demonstration at National Fuel’s headquarters in Williamsville, four area ministers joined with the twelve organizations that comprise the National Fuel Accountability Coalition to call for a community dialogue about the company’s practices that heighten the crisis of heating costs in neighborhoods across WNY by misallocating customer funded conservation monies.
“National Fuel CEO David Smith has demonstrated time and again that he believes he has no accountability to the community,” said Reverend John Long, a retired minister with First Presbyterian Church. “It is long past time for David Smith to do the right thing and meet with the community.”
The Coalition is asking for a community partnership with the publicly regulated utility company around three main points: The reform and implementation of the publicly funded conservation incentive program; continued investment in weatherization for people who can’t afford gas bills; rethinking the model of a publicly regulated utility company to ensure that the structure puts people first.
For the past 5 years, National Fuel has charged all customers a fee to fund a $10 million a year Conservation Incentive Program, or CIP. Instead of investing in weatherization, National Fuel spent CIP funds on a bloated corporate advertising campaign. Last year National Fuel ran over 2,000 commercials with public conservation monies.
“The National Fuel Accountability Coalition believes a community partnership is necessary to ensure that programs like CIP put people first, not corporate profits,” said Jen Mecozzi, PUSH Buffalo organizing director.
The National Fuel Accountability Coalition has been successful in advocating for reforms to CIP, moving over a million dollars out of corporate advertising and into weatherization for low income people.
The demonstration was the first time that the National Fuel Accountability Coalition has returned to National Fuel’s Williamsville Headquarters since the fall of 2010, when they were sued for attempting to deliver a letter.
Prior to the press conference at National Fuel, the coalition led a demonstration targeting Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam to call on him to negotiate a contract with workers that protects good jobs.
The Coalition highlighted Verizon’s refusal to negotiate a fair contract with its union workforce and the company’s push to outsource jobs overseas, and cut employee healthcare, retirement, and disability benefits, despite making more than $19 billion in profits and paying its top executives $283 million over the past four years.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a better example of corporate greed than Verizon, a company making billions and tripling its CEO’s pay while demanding harsh givebacks from its workers,” said Ina Ferguson-Downing, board member with Citizen Action.
“Verizon has demanded excessive and unfair concessions from workers even though the company is making record profits,” said Andy Reynolds, an organizer with the Coalition for Economic Justice. “At a time when our communities need good jobs more than ever, Verizon is more concerned with padding their bottom line than they are with meeting the needs of their workers or our communities. The company is placing profits over people.”
Clergy, community and grassroots leaders, PUSH Buffalo, VOICE Buffalo, the Coalition for Economic Justice, Citizen Action, the National Fuel Accountability Coalition participated in the actions calling for corporate accountability from Verizon and National Fuel.