New union at privately-owned Beneficial State Bank represents groundbreaking momentum for U.S. financial sector. The bank workers chose to form a union, becoming the first U.S. bank workers in decades to win union rights.
While union membership in the financial sector is the norm in other countries, with over 3 million bank workers who have union representation globally, in the United States almost no bank workers are represented by a union. The financial services industry, which is plagued by systemic problems of discrimination, low-wages, extreme sales goals, and whistleblower retaliation, has the country’s lowest percentage of union representation. No private bank employees have successfully formed a union in over 40 years.
At the same time, last year, profits at the nation’s largest banks soared to record highs amid a $38 billion tax handout from the Trump Administration, while the median annual wage for bank tellers nationally languished at $29,450 according to the most recent data available. Instead of investing in their workforces, banks are ramping up layoffs and offshoring to cut corners.
One hundred thirteen Beneficial State Bank employees chose to join the Communications Workers of America — gaining them a voice on the job and crucial tools to speak out for better working conditions, higher wages, and protection from retaliation. The bargaining unit includes bankers, consumer loan servicing representatives, loan processors, and underwriters, to file clerks and custodial staff.
Prior to the organizing efforts that began in December, Beneficial State Bank agreed to remain neutral during the card check process, and recognize workers’ right to form a union. “All too often the balance of power is tipped unfairly toward the employer, and, as we have seen time and time again, organizations that are primarily focused on maximizing shareholder value may pursue activities that are exploitative of people and natural resources,” said Randell Leach, Interim CEO of Beneficial State Bank. “Fighting these and other power imbalances in the economic system is why Beneficial State Bank exists.”
“Beneficial State Bank is setting a precedent today for the entire banking industry—and we’ll keep organizing workers across the industry to push for this systemic change” said Communications Workers of America Organizing Coordinator Erin Mahoney. CWA is member of the Committee for Better Banks. Employees across the U.S. banking industry, from bank tellers to call center workers, have joined this Committee for Better Banks to demand better labour standards and consumer protections to avoid the disastrous 2008 financial crisis and the 2016 fraudulent accounts scandal at Wells Fargo, which Wells Fargo employees in the Committee exposed.