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College sophomore Zachary Bell and a small group of Penn students spoke out against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s attempts to block climate change legislation this Friday at a rally in Center City.

While Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue met with Philadelphia’s local chamber leaders at the Loews Hotel to discuss job creation, more than 100 protestors rallied outside against the Chamber’s stances on health care, energy reform, net neutrality and workers’ rights.

“I snuck around the back so the protestors wouldn’t get me,” Donohue said at a Wharton Management Club lecture in Huntsman Hall later that afternoon.

The protest included advocacy groups such as PennEnvironment, Greenpeace, Health Care for America Now, the Media and Democracy Coalition, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other labor unions.

“[The Chamber] has moved in a very right-wing direction,” said Marc Stier, HCAN Pennsylvania state director. “In area after area, they’re standing with the big corporations and against the interests of the business community.”

Bell said he decided to get involved in the protest because he considered the Chamber a significant threat to climate legislation.

“This is such an incredibly critical time in terms of getting climate legislation passed,” Bell said. “Donohue is spending $300,000 every day to be a roadblock to legislation. I want to have him be aware that he’s being observed and watched.”

Bell sent e-mails to the listservs of several student organizations, including the Penn Environmental Group, inviting students to attend the rally and Donohue’s lecture on campus.

In the on-campus speech, Donohue talked about the work performed by the Chamber, which is the world’s largest business federation and represents more than 3 million businesses and organizations.

In the Q&A; session that followed, Bell asked Donohue why the Chamber spends so much money against climate legislation.

“The Chamber wants a domestic climate bill that reduces CO2 and keeps people working,” Donohue said. “We don’t just want a bill because Al Gore wants one.”

He said the Chamber opposed giving the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to enact climate legislation over Congress.

“The EPA looks only at the environment, not the broader economic context,” he said.

Bell said he confronted Donohue after the lecture, asking questions about the recent decision of five companies, including Nike and Apple, to withdraw from the organization in response to its stance on climate legislation.

In response, Donohue said these companies were only a small portion of the Chamber’s still-large membership and their secession would not have a significant effect.

“It was great that he was open to taking questions, but he didn’t really answer the questions,” Bell said. “He brushed it off or didn’t fully explain it.”

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