When Bank Workers Occupy the Banks

After about eight years of seeing Main Street households get owned by Big Finance, front-line bank workers are now trying to reclaim Wall Street, branch by branch. In Los Angeles, where communities are still reeling from the financial crisis, front-line bank employees, and activists last week occupied the lobbies of Wells Fargo and Bank of America and demanded fair terms for the customers and the workforce.

As we’ve reported previously, bank workers have been organizing to demand more equitable banking practices for those buying and selling some of the most lucrative financial products at the community level. The coalition advocates for consumer and labor justice collaboratively, because they believe financial institutions cheat both sides of the industry by driving struggling bank workers to manipulate consumers with predatory marketing.

The Committee for Better Banks, a campaign led by community groups and Communications Workers of America, last week delivered an 11,000-plus-signatory petition to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, along with a letter stating that workers faced “pressures to meet sales quotas under strict monitoring and threat of losing their jobs, often forcing them to push unnecessary products and fees on to their customers, causing them stress and financial hardship,” and that loan servicing departments have been using similar tactics to push consumers toward riskier products they can ill afford.

As they campaign nationwide against bank conglomerates, the committee hopes to introduce a new bottom line to the industry: the idea that front-line financial-service workers “deserve a fair share of the profits our work creates,” and that tellers and retail bankers should play “a critical role in ensuring fair banking practices and protecting our customer.”

Read more in The Nation