On February 14, 2007, Harold Ford was hired as "Vice Chairman and Senior Policy Advisor" at Merrill Lynch. The New York Times estimates his current salary at more than $1 million a year.
On September 15, 2008, Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America. Harold Ford, Jr. retained his position. In late 2008, Merrill Lynch was asked by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to provide details on what bonus payments, if any, it planned to hand out. According to Cuomo, Merrill Lynch secretly moved up its planned date to hand out $3.6 billion in bonuses despite Merrill Lynch losing billions for the year- losses which prompted Bank of America to buy Merrill Lynch. While names of bonus recipients are not released, it is almost assured that Harold Ford, Jr. was among them, given his position and that Bank of America kept him on. According to Cuomo, 696 individuals collected bonuses of at least $1 million or more, so we can assume Ford collected a bonus at least that large and most likely, given his position, larger.
Here's why this is all interesting to me. Last Thanksgiving, Bank of America fired over three dozen union security guards represented by SEIU 32BJ. In the process, by firing their contractor, Bank of America also stripped 130 security guards of their health care coverage, not to mention their families. And during the holiday season, too. Ho ho ho, said the Bank of America executives.
Now, Reuters reported last week that Bank of America is planning on paying bonuses "close to the levels of 2007", all while these workers are still laid off and more have no health care benefits.
So, let's summarize:
1. Merrill Lynch pays millions of dollars in bonuses to failed employees who wreck the company and the economy... including Harold Ford, Jr.
2. Bank of America buys Merrill Lynch and then fires several dozen union security guards and strips 130 total of their health care benefits, on Ford's watch.
3. Bank of America plans to pay another round of bonuses this year to its executives- at 2007 levels, and also on Ford's watch.
4. Harold Ford, Jr. contemplates running for Senate.
Now, Harold Ford, Jr. says he's a friend of labor. Here's what his pal Joe Trippi had to say about him yesterday:
Harold Ford Jr. has a strong record of working with working families and labor - fighting for jobs, and small businesses.
And here's what he said about voting to raise the minimum wage in 2006:
People who work hard everyday trying to create a better life for their families deserve better, especially when the heads of oil companies are enjoying record profits and astronomical pensions.
Pretty comparable situation to today. Record profits and astronomical bonuses, some of which were collected by Ford as the people who guard him were being laid off and stripped of their health care benefits.
So here's two questions for Mr. Ford:
1. If you are the Vice Chairman and Senior Policy Advisor, what did you do, if anything, to prevent union, blue-collar workers from being fired, or kept 130 families from losing their health care in the middle of winter?
2. If you are the friend of labor you claim to be, what are you doing to ensure these employees get their benefits and jobs back?
Here's SEIU 32BJ Executive Vice President Kevin Doyle in a letter to Ford:
It is incredible many of these security guards have been left out in the cold while your firm is set to pay out one of its biggest bonus pools ever. Last year Bank of America paid out $3.3 billion in bonuses for 2008 performance, and Merrill Lynch paid out $3.6 billion. Merrill Lynch executives, including you, received these bonuses even though the firm lost $3.8 billion.
As you contemplate a run for the Senate, it is time to show your commitment to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers- not just the Wall Street elite. I hope that you will help correct this problem at Bank of America and ensure that the officers at your buildings are restored to their previous positions and have their full benefits restored.
Will Harold Ford, Jr. speak out on behalf of SEIU 32BJ members and their families, and work to correct this problem? Or will he toe the Wall Street corporate line- the same line that pays millions in bonuses to executives while thumbing noses at those who protect them?
To turn a phrase, put your mouth where your money is, Harold.