In testimony to HFSC, Beneficial State Bank employee and Committee for Better Banks leader Desiree Jackson lifts up first banking industry union contract in 40 years
‘Bill of Rights Act’ would pave way for more union contracts and fairer workplace conditions in banking
NATIONWIDE — Beneficial State Bank employee and leader with the Committee for Better Banks (CBB) Desiree Jackson endorsed the Financial Services Worker Bill of Rights Act at a Congressional hearing today on the future of banking. The Bill of Rights Act, which would make it easier for bank workers to join a union, among other benefits, was introduced by Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) Wednesday — the same day that Jackson and her colleagues at Beneficial State announced the ratification of their union contract, the first in the banking industry in 40 years. Jackson’s testimony can be found HERE.
The Bill of Rights Act follows a framework put forward by CBB and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor in 2020. Titled “Financial Exploitation, Bank Workers’ Rights, and the Prevention of the Next Crisis: The Case for a Bank Workers’ Bill of Rights,” the report recommended industry-wide workplace protections for frontline bank workers.
“Today marks a moment of incredible progress for U.S. bank workers. From our historic union contract win at Beneficial State, the first in the industry in nearly half-a-century, to the introduction of a bank workers’ Bill of Rights, we are one step closer to repairing a broken financial system,” said Desiree Jackson, an Assistant Vice President at Beneficial State’s Oakland, Calif. branch and former call center worker at Wells Fargo. “Thank you, Representative Waters, for your leadership in introducing this bill and inviting me to testify on the need for widespread protections for U.S. bank workers. As we continue to elevate the most pressing issues in the industry, I call on all financial regulators and banking executives to follow our lead today: take a stand for a just financial system and ensure bank workers like me are a part of that change.”
The Bill of Rights Act is the first comprehensive piece of legislation designed to implement protections for bank workers across the financial services industry, and would eliminate high pressure sales tactics tied to individual performance rather than customer service goals, establish a system for non-management employees to provide feedback to Federal financial institution regulatory agencies conducting examinations, and require banks to remain neutral amid union organizing efforts and more.
Last year, Jackson was part of Beneficial State bank workers’ historic effort to organize the first union in the banking industry in over 40 years. She began working at Beneficial State after spending 18 years as a call center worker at Wells Fargo, where she was under constant pressure to meet unattainable deadlines and sales goals that ultimately took a toll on her mental and physical health and wellbeing. In contrast, with a union contract — announced today — Jackson and her colleagues at Beneficial State have secured a voice on the job and the freedom to bring issues to management without fear of retaliation. Their contract includes increases in pay for hourly and salaried employees, improvements to employees’ 401ks, ‘just-cause’ discipline establishing due process and protection from unfair discipline, and a quarterly meeting for management and union members to discuss any workplace concerns. Read more about the contract HERE.
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. While union membership in the financial sector is the norm in other countries — over 3 million bank workers have union representation globally — in the United States, less than 1% of bank workers are represented by a union. As a result, U.S. bank workers overwhelmingly lack a voice on the job and the opportunity to bring workplace issues and customer concerns to management due to fear of retaliation.
The Bill of Rights Act aims to address the industry’s toxic culture and low union membership head-on. It would eliminate forced arbitration in employment agreements that prevents frontline bank workers from filing complaints or talking to government regulators when they see consumer abuse and strengthen and protect bank workers’ right to form unions.
“This bill clearly indicates regulators are understanding that frontline bank workers have a role to play in strengthening the industry,” said CBB Co-Lead Director Nick Weiner. “At Beneficial State, we’re already seeing what’s possible when workers have a voice on the job and a union contract, including better customer relationships and real collaboration between workers and management. While Beneficial State workers’ union contract is currently an outlier in the industry, the Bill of Rights would help make organizing the norm by protecting bank workers’ right to form a union. We are thankful for Representative Waters’ leadership, and look forward to working with her to ensure this bill gets passed.”
The Committee for Better Banks, a project of the Communications Workers of America, has been at the forefront of the fight to improve working conditions for frontline bank workers and help secure industry-wide protections on the job. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CBB’s scorecards have assessed the U.S. banking industry’s performance across a range of issues, from mortgage forbearance to diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the start of the Biden-Harris administration, CBB developed specific policy recommendations to support the administration’s overarching goals to empower workers, advance racial equity and foster a safe and sound financial system for all Americans. The recommendations included increasing frontline worker participation in the feedback process to federal regulatory agencies, relevant to their examination and supervision of financial institutions; prioritizing access, inclusion and accountability within banks’ culture; and streamlining enforcement to empower workers.
About the Committee for Better Banks
The Committee for Better Banks, the only independent voice for frontline bank employees, is composed of bank workers, community and consumer advocacy groups, and labor organizations, coming together to improve conditions in the banking industry. Committee for Better Banks members include current and former employees of banks and credit unions across the country, including Wells Fargo, US Bank, Santander, Bank of The West, and Bank of America.
About the Communications Workers of America:
The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech and other fields.