Short version: Win America Campaign vs. US Uncut: We won!
Detailed version: Once upon a time, there was a deadly coalition of corporate lobbyists determined to use their bottomless war chests to sway lawmakers with a deluge of cash. Their agenda was twofold: Maximize their profits, and shift their tax burden to the shoulders of the disappearing middle class. Those middle class folks had enough of this corporate cabal and their greed, and decided to organize an effort to stop them in their tracks. It worked, and the coalition disbanded.
But I'm not talking about the anti-ALEC campaign of 2012 led by Color of Change, Occupy and other social justice organizations. I'm talking about the fight against the Win America Campaign (WAC) of 2011 led by US Uncut, Citizens for Tax Justice and other tax-fairness organizations. This week, the Win America Campaign, led by some of the world's most notorious corporate tax dodgers like Apple, Google, Cisco and Pfizer, finally disbanded after months of sustained grassroots pressure against their low-tax "repatriation" scam.
See, these big companies got a generous tax break in 2004, paying just a 5% federal tax rate (instead of the statutory 35% rate) on US profits they "repatriated" back to America from overseas bank accounts in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Ireland. And Bush, along with his Republican Congress, gave it to them under the auspices of "job creation."
Thing is, those profits were made in America, but these companies just exploited loopholes in the tax code (that their lobbyists helped write) that enabled them to make money here without paying taxes here.
And that big tax break they got for shifting American profits back to America didn't create jobs - Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Pfizer and others actually cut tens thousands of jobs in the year following their "repatriation" tax break, while paying multi-million-dollar salaries to their CEOs and buying back company stocks to artificially inflate their market value. Then they shifted even more profits overseas, hoping to cash in on the next repatriation scam.
It took efforts from a trifecta of dedicated activists to stop greedy corporate tax dodgers from scoring another wasteful tax break. Nonprofits like Citizens for Tax Justice, Jubilee USA, Institute for Policy Studies and Global Financial Integrity all contributed an onslaught of devastating studies and reports exposing the truth of the last repatriation scam, and wrote op-eds that ran in mainstream publications. Advocates like Nicole Tichon, Jack Blum and Chuck Collins all used these studies to lobby key lawmakers against the proposal.
Grassroots groups like US Uncut then took that information and turned it into creative direct action at Apple stores in over a dozen major cities, from Honolulu, Hawaii to DC. Chris Priest and US Uncut Boston wore shirts that disguised them as Apple employees before breaking out into spontaneous protest in an Apple store and getting carried out by police. Some of the activists who took part in the Wisconsin uprising of early 2011 protested at the Apple store in Madison. Leslie Dreyer of US Uncut San Francisco and several others wore pastel-colored skintight Zentai suits with QR code that linked to US Uncut's video calling on Apple to ditch the Win America Campaign, right outside of the 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference. Jim Coleman and US Uncut Chicago demonstrated outside of the city's flagship Apple store at a high-traffic intersection for 12 weeks straight.
Even the corporate-owned media noticed our campaign - a columnist for both Fox Business and Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch talked to me about a piece called "Jobless Recovery Creates More Corporate Protesters." Independent media, tech reporters, mainstream papers, even the New York Times covered our campaign.
US Uncut activists even engaged the Win America Campaign online. WAC created a YouTube channel, with their first video featuring Rep. Paul Ryan on cable news talking about how he doesn't want repatriation every 7 years, but every day. Within an hour of posting the video on our Facebook page, Uncutters gave the video hundreds of "dislikes," and a comments thread filled with disparaging comments for Rep. Ryan and corporate tax-dodgers. WAC soon deleted the video, along with their YouTube channel. President Obama would threaten a veto of the repatriation bill, and the bill would die in Congress.
Win America finally disbanded. But we aren't going to let them slide that easy. If those companies want to create jobs, we challenge them to stick to the promise they made - dedicate 5% of their American profits stashed overseas to create new jobs in America, or use that money to give a raise to non-executive employees.
ALEC is an even more sinister corporate coalition than WAC, and will be much tougher to take down. But the Occupy Wall Street movement is already escalating tactics on corporate offenders, even threatening a day of general strike on May 1. The moral of the story? Organized people can and will prevail over organized greed.