How a Small Group of Quaker Activists Took on PNC Bank and Won

In 2009, a small group of Quakers from Philadelphia decided to do something about climate change. Calling themselves the “Earth Quaker Action Team,” they took on one of the largest banks in the country. 5 years and 125 actions later, PNC Bank decided to change its policy of funding mountaintop removal coal mining. How did they do it?

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Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

12 thoughts on “How a Small Group of Quaker Activists Took on PNC Bank and Won

  1. Great work, great persistence and clarity. It would be interesting to learn more about how you kept the impetus going for so long. Climate action is such a BIG subject…it is often just where do we begin?

  2. Wonderful video! So important to share this! Participating in this campaign here in Cincinnati, sitting on the bank lobby floor and holding meeting for worship while others handed out flyers at the door about P&C’s involvement in mountaintop removal, brought together for me the full practice of our faith tradition: inward communal prayer and outward testimony in the world. Thank you to all the leaders of EQATE who faithfully led this campaign! We do need this kind of supportive leadership!

  3. This is an inspiring success story.
    While PNC is no longer investing in mountaintop removal mining, can you tell me if the mining companies stopped or at least reduced their activity, or did they simply find a different investor?

  4. I am so happy to see this video. It really highlights the BLAM (Bank Like Appalachia Matters) campaign well.

    If you ever want to do another video about Quakers who craft campaigns and carry them out, you might keep in mind one thing that EQAT repeats over and over: Choose a demand that is actually winnable.

    This campaign didn’t involve Quakers praying on a mountaintop and blocking the coal companies. No-they put pressure on one of the supports that the coal companies rely on. Also, PNC has many other lines of business such that they really were able to stop doing this one thing, and it didn’t hurt their business overall. This strategic choice of a demand was actually key to the campaign’s success.

    Good intentions can be ineffective without this key teaching.

    Thanks again for lifting up this deeply Quaker organization and its work. I am always sad that such direct action raises Quaker eyebrows in the world today. I think that must be from a lack of real understanding.

  5. WHAT if this approach was used in other places? On a wider scale? It opens my heart with pride to think about how the world could change!!!

  6. Good news for viewers and commenters here that wonder, “But how could we get that started, design the campaign, formulate the demands so we have a good chance of winning, maintain the morale to sustain the campaign until we win?”

    Answers to those questions and more are in my new book coming out in paperback this fall in Britain and the U.S.: “HOW WE WIN: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning.” I was a founder of EQAT (and involved in other campaigns, often giving leadership, since my arrest in a sit-in in the civil rights movement), and the book is chock-full of stories that show, in practical terms, how successful campaigns work. Melville House Publishing offers a pre-publication discount on its website. This fairly short book de-mystifies strategizing and has many tips on how we can blend spiritual and personal growth with and through “getting the job done” of increasing justice, peace and sustainability in the world.

  7. An Earth Quaker Action Team event opens the new full length documentary Quakers ~The Quiet Revolutionaries. The film has won multiple awards as it highlights the important and persistent political and social activism of Quakers over the past 370 years from England to America. The website is :

  8. This was very inspirational. I bank at PNC and recently developed a severe vision loss. I asked the people at PNC to provide extra large checks and a register. They said that they don’t do that. My understanding, from my low-vision doctor, is that banks are required by law to do this. I talked to the local manager as well as the manager in Pittsburgh. The answer was always “We. don’t do that.” Finally the local manager offered to get me s one checks that are 35% larger. (I really ;need 100% larger) at a cost of $22. They “couldn’t provide them f or free.” Nor is it legal for me to make my own on my computer, although one of the managers did so for me when I first asked.
    I know this is off the subject, but I mention it because I hope PNC’s next change will be to be omore service to all handicapped people.Camden

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