Union represents growing momentum for worker rights in U.S. financial sector
Recognition follows efforts by bank workers with the Committee for Better Banks to improve labor and consumer protections
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union (FCU) workers in Rochester, N.Y., have unanimously chosen to form a union with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Genesee Co-op workers’ union win is the latest in a string of successful organizing efforts across industries, including the historic union win for workers at Beneficial State Bank, who last November won the first new union contract in the banking industry in more than 40 years, and at Starbucks stores in nearby Buffalo, N.Y., earlier this year.
Ten Genesee Co-op employees will join CWA, a founding member of the Committee for Better Banks – gaining them a voice on the job and crucial tools to speak out for better working conditions, higher wages, worker training programs, and protections on the job.
“My colleagues and I worked hard to form our union to improve our working conditions and combat the high-stress, unlivable wages and understaffing we face on the job. Now, with a seat at the table, we’re looking forward to negotiating strong contracts that will help retain good employees and ensure us fair pay and better benefits,” said Genesee Co-op FCU payment solutions officer and new member of CWA, Brett Goldstein. “We’re excited to be a part of the movement for much-needed changes in the financial industry, and hope that our victory inspires other credit union and bank workers across the country to organize and demand respect for themselves and the communities they serve.”
The Genesee Co-op workers won union recognition unanimously through a majority sign up procedure agreed to by the credit union and officiated by Mark Gaston Pearce, executive director of the Workers’ Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law Center. The credit union also agreed to respect workers’ right to form a union and remain neutral during the organizing.
“I'm proud to serve the Rochester community and the people who are too often left out by the banking system. With a voice on the job, we can now make sure we’re holding Genesee accountable to its values of affordable, reliable services for those that need it most,” said Genesee Co-op FCU loan officer and new member of CWA, Nolan Noble. “Over the four years that I’ve worked at Genesee, the credit union has grown considerably, expanding our workforce and our membership. I’m proud of this growth and, with a union, we can ensure that it is sustainable and that workers like me have a say in the direction Genesee takes moving forward.”
A Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Genesee Co-op FCU overwhelmingly serves people with low and moderate incomes. These members, many of whom have belonged to Genesee Co-op for decades, rely on the credit union and its workers for low-cost, personal financial services. In addition to improving the working conditions and financial security of Genesee Co-op workers, this union win will also ensure improved financial services and access for the communities that need it most.
“Prosperity for All is one of Genesee Co-op’s core values. Too often the economy is rigged to favor those who already have money and power,” according to Melissa Marquez, CEO of Genesee Co-op FCU. “Unions, like cooperatives and credit unions, are made of people coming together to work for economic justice.”
Bank workers across the United States are organizing with the Committee for Better Banks (CBB) to increase the ranks of union representation in the finance industry and address systemic problems of discrimination, low-wages, extreme performance metrics and sales goals, and whistleblower retaliation. Wells Fargo employees organizing with CBB helped to expose the Wells Fargo fraudulent accounts scandal in 2016, and have since been vocal supporters of greater labor and consumer protection in the industry.
“We are incredibly proud to welcome Genesee Co-op credit union workers into our union family and take steps forward to a strong contract that improves their wages and working conditions. Organizing a union is no easy task, but these workers have come together with a determination to truly create a better workplace for all,” said John Pusloskie, President of CWA Local 1170. “The agreement by the credit union’s leaders to remain neutral and respect their employees’ right to organize sets a powerful example for other banks and credit unions to follow. Respecting union rights doesn’t just ensure fairness and decency for all workers, it improves the quality of services financial institutions can provide.”
“Whether it’s helping someone work out a forbearance plan on their mortgage or a small business owner get a PPP loan, workers across the U.S. financial sector endure high stress conditions to provide the essential services that keep our economy up and running. I congratulate the workers at Genesee Co-op FCU in forming their union so they can collectively bargain to improve their lives, their families’ lives, and the members they serve,” said Nick Weiner, Co-Director of Committee for Better Banks. “We applaud Genesee Co-op management for their decision to remain neutral as their workers organized. It’s time more financial institutions, big and small, recognize that putting the communities and consumers they serve first starts with listening to workers and supporting workers’ right to organize.”
Committee for Better Banks Support for Financial Services Worker Bill of Rights Act
As part of its efforts to improve the U.S. financial system for workers and customers alike, the Committee for Better Banks endorsed the Financial Services Worker Bill of Rights Act at a Congressional hearing on the future of banking. The Bill of Rights Act, which would make it easier for bank workers to join a union, 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.
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.
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, and manufacturing.