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Boycott Western Union

by Martha Ugarte Monday, Sep. 10, 2007 at 3:23 PM
marha.ugarte@hotmail (818) 398-2578

Press Conference to launch the Western Union boycott

Immigrant Groups to Launch Western Union Boycott

Los Angeles, CA – On September 10, The Alliance for Migrant Economic Power in Los Angeles, The Coalition All are Elvira Arellano and Saulito, will join the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action (TIGRA) to launch a nationwide boycott against Colorado-based money transfer giant Western Union. This boycott comes two days before a general consumer boycott by immigrants. Groups accuse Western Union of charging exorbitant fees while failing to adequately reinvest in immigrant communities. A year’s worth of negotiations with the company has not yielded results. Immigrants demand that Western Union abandon its predatory financial practices or face an ongoing boycott.

Press Conference

WHAT: Press Conference to launch the Western Union boycott

WHEN: Monday, September 10, 2007 at 10:00 AM

WHERE: Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO,

2130 W. James M. Wood Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90006

WHO: The Alliance for Migrant Economic Power in Los Angeles

The Coalition all are Elvira Arellano and Saulito

Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action TIGRA

Dolores Huerta, co founder of UFW (invited)

Gwen Gampon, United Steel Workers of America (USWA)

Father Luis Angel Nieto, Sacred Family Catholic Church.

Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, Director of the Pilipino Workers' Center.

Gloria Saucedo, Hermandad Mexicana National San Fernando

Rafael Barajas, director of Los Angeles Legal Center.

Hector Alvarado, Coordinator of Pro Uno

Mujeres Unidas, Martha Ugarte

After the press conference, speakers will join with representatives from immigrant and community organizations to march to a nearby Western Union in protest.

“Western Union is taking advantage of the love we send our families living abroad,” said David Villalobos, an organizer with TIGRA in Southern California. “Though they are making millions off of our communities, the company reinvests only 41 cents for every 0 in profit. This is unacceptable.”

Immigrant advocates are calling on Western Union to adopt a Transnational Community Benefits Agreement (TCBA). The Agreement would lower remittance fees, establish fairer exchange rates, and provide for community reinvestment. Western Union and other money transfer agencies often function as the primary banking service in immigrant communities, yet they remain unregulated by the Community Reinvestment Act and are unaccountable to their primarily low-wage customer base. Immigrants depend on remittances, or money transfers, to send money for food, urgent medical care, and education to their communities of origin.

The company’s current reinvestment track record is abysmal, despite their latest “Tres por Uno” program in Mexico and annual profits of more than billion. Western Union reinvests only 41 cents for every 0 of profit, as compared to .30 reinvested by Wal-Mart and .50 reinvested by Ben and Jerry’s. The “Tres por Uno” program boosts this number to 77 cents for five participating Mexican states. The TCBA would require Western Union to reinvest per every transaction.

High fees are another problem. An immigrant worker earning minimum wage must work a full week to pay off a year’s worth of Western Union fees and commissions. Although an individual money transfer costs Western Union less than (dropping to .27 for second and subsequent transactions), the company charges more than . The World Bank estimates Western Union could cut its fees by one-third and still retain profits comparable to its competitors.

On May 10, TIGRA immigrant advocates gave Western Union 100 days to adopt its key demands. They have yet to hear a sufficient response from the company, despite thousands of phone calls, emails, postcards and faxes and a brief face-to-face discussion with CEO Christina Gold. Previous attempts to engage Western Union beginning in September 2006 have proved unproductive. Advocates have been forced to launch a boycott of the company, demanding that Western Union adopt the Transnational Community Benefits Agreement.

Comité Pro Uno, Hermandad Mexicana, and Pilipino Workers Center are part of the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action (TIGRA), a national network of more than 180 immigrant organizations working together to clean up the practices of the money transfer industry to ensure community reinvestment. Mujeres Unidas, Union de Vecinos, and USWA – Local 675 are additional co-sponsors of the Sept. 10 press conference in Los Angeles. The Western Union boycott will be launched in immigrant communities nationwide beginning September 17. See for more information on local boycott activities.

The Alliance for Migrant Economic Power in Los Angeles,

The Coalition We are All Elvira Arellano and Saulito, and

Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action


Debayani Kar, (202) 246-8143,

Martha Ugarte, (818) 398-2578,

David Villalobos, (559) 303-0221,

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