CME has been successfully bidding for the attention of Illinois politicians – and now regular folks are starting to notice.
On Tuesday, a statewide allliance is protesting at City Hall and then marching to State Senate President John Cullerton’s office to protest his legislation granting a $50 million tax break to CME, owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade.
On Wednesday, a coalition of community and labor groups will launch a campaign to derail CME’s tax break – and press for a small financial transaction tax on CME trades – with a march on protest at the Chicago Board of Trade and a stand with Occupy Chicago.
“It’s a shakedown,” said Mehrdad Azemun of National Peoples Action , of the new tax break. NPA is one of several regional and statewide networks of community and church groups that are joining to protest the measure on Tuesday.
“Corporations as large as these need to pay their fair share, especially at a time when every day brings news of more cuts to state and city programs, more police stations being closed.”
He points out that just a few years ago, CME threatened to leave – and then promised to stay, after it received a $15 million TIF subsidy and millions more in property tax breaks.
“Our sense is that the state leaders and the Chicago mayor are just giving in to threat after threat,” he said. “It’s really not a responsible way to govern – and it’s not a responsible way to run a budget.”
To Cullerton and Mayor Emanuel, who have made the tax break a top priority for the veto session, Rev. Marilyn Pagan Banks of Northside POWER  said, “We are demanding that you reverse your position, and stop acting only for the 1 percent. We need you to stand with the 99 percent.”
On Wednesday, the community-labor coalition Stand Up Chicago  will march from the Chase Plaza at Dearborn and Monroe (starting at 11:45 a.m.) and join Occupy Chicago  at LaSalle and Jackson for a press conference. Members of Workers United  will be donating winter wear and sleeping bags to Occupy Chicago.
Speakers will include Workers United president Noel Beasley.
They’ll proceed for more activity across the street to the Chicago Board of Trade, where they’ll protest Cullerton’s tax break and continue building a campaign for a financial transaction tax.
“In this age of austerity, it’s obvious that we can’t afford to be offering more tax breaks to corporations that are most assuredly in the black,” said Susan Hurley of Chicago Jobs with Justice , part of the Stand Up coalition. (CME’s profits last year were over $950 million, and they’re even higher this year.)
“And we need to create tax instruments to generate funds to keep our ship of state afloat,” she added.
The transaction tax – just 25 cents on an average trade of $233,000 – would be charged to traders, not the exchanges themselves. But with 12 million trades a day, the fee would generate over a billion dollars a year, supporters say. (See our earlier report  for more detail.)
Cullerton’s tax break would also apply to the Chicago Board of Options Exchange; with additional tax breaks in the legislation, its total cost could be $100 million a year . The transaction tax would also apply to trades on the CBOE.
NPA’s Azemun and Stand’s Catherine Murrell said members of their coalitions would be contacting their legislators to oppose Cullerton’s bill.