May Day: Occupy Wall Street Aims for a Comeback

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The nearly forgotten Occupy Wall Street protesters plan to make a comeback on May Day. May 1 has many historic meanings, including that of the International Worker's Day, the day the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor) declared that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886." It is also known as a distress signal for a vessel going down. And don't forget little children dancing around a Maypole. But now Occupy Wall Street hopes to mark the day as the one the movement made its comeback.

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) continues to target five of the largest financial corporations -- JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Bank of America, Citigroup (NYSE: C), Well Fargo (NYSE: WFC), and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) -- whom they claim holds 56% of the U.S. economy in assets ($8.5 trillion). In recent weeks they have infiltrated a Wells Fargo shareholders meeting and targeted a GE (NYSE: GE) meeting.

Has OWS actually done anything to damage or hold back their intended targets? The Citigroup stock has seen a few peaks and valleys since the now infamous Zuccotti Park takeover last fall, but overall, the stock has gone up -- from $27.71 on Sept. 19, 2011, to today's open of $33.35. Goldman Sachs was at $104.81 and is now at $115.18. JPMorgan Chase has come back from $32.49 to an impressive $42.99 in that same period. And it is the same for GE and Wells Fargo -- the stocks have all continued to improve. The movement has succeeded, however, in forcing GE to defend its tax record.

Does OWS still have any sway, influence or power? Did their previous activities make any difference? According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll surveyed two weeks ago, 51% of Americans feel OWS has "run its course and serves a less important purpose."

Occupy Wall Street has coordinated events for May 1 in 125 cities, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where it encourages supporters to skip work and school to take "the struggle against an inhuman system" back to the streets. They are hoping for a gathering of 30,000 people in New York City's Union Square, and for a march on Wall Street. And they are encouraging consumers to avoid shopping for the day. They call it the Day Without the 100 Percent.

OWS has lost considerable steam and support in the past few months. One main reason for this is the lack of organization and structure throughout the movement. The lack of clearly identified demands and positions (beyond their generic rallying cry of banks are bad), has failed to keep the organization active and mobilized. The movement refuses to "conform" to traditional hierarchies and structures involving a "top down" or leadership approach, instead choosing a more linear model of governance. Ironically, as the OWS movement dwindles and falters, it continues to protest and complain about the exact organizations that best define the leadership models they abhor and which continue to grow and succeed.

But that does not mean OWS will not disrupt the system with their May Day activities. It will be more "sand in the craw" than anything else. The movement has a stated intention of shutting down the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Tuesday. The New York "spring offensive" will include picket lines and protests aimed at financial institutions. It is highly unlikely that the protests will leave a significant impact on any of the corporations. However, according to Bloomberg News, the financial institutions and the police department are aware of the pickets, and are prepared in advance.


ErinAnnie has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup Inc , JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Wells Fargo & Company and has the following options: short APR 2012 $21.00 puts on Wells Fargo & Company, short APR 2012 $29.00 calls on Wells Fargo & Company, short OCT 2012 $33.00 puts on Wells Fargo & Company, and short OCT 2012 $36.00 calls on Wells Fargo & Company. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Goldman Sachs Group and Wells Fargo & Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.

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