LaborTalk for August 26, 2011

If the AFL-CIO Wants to 'Make Wall Street Pay!',
Why Not Start by Unionizing the Major Banks?

By Harry Kelber

In December 2000, the Chase Manhattan Bank, with 5,410 branches in 23 states, merged with J.P. Morgan Co. The merger created quite a sensation on Wall Street, but received little notice from the AFL-CIO.

The merged bank operated non-union, but the labor leaders, who are still running the AFL-CIO, made no attempt to organize its 191,987 employees. Banking is a major industry with tremendous influence on the nation's economy and it was powerful enough to get a bailout of billions of dollars from the United States government.

The industry employs over 1.2 million people, in jobs that range from personal banker and credit analyst to customer service and tellers. Yet no more than one percent of the industry is unionized

A union can have a broad appeal to bank employees, whose wages and working conditions can stand improvement. A teller's hourly wage averages from $9 to $12 an hour; a personal banker, from $31,000 to $45,000 a year, and a credit analyst, from $49.000 to $60,00. Employees can discuss their grievances on a personal, not collective, basis with bank managers, who have the power to hire and fire them.

It is a lot easier to organize a bank than an industrial corporation. A union organizer has great leverage. He or she can imply that big unions can deposit their money elsewhere. It is very easy to gain entrance to a bank and then manage to discuss joining a union with the employees.

So Why Won't the AFL-CIO Organize Bank Employees?

Organizing the banks can be the first step in making Wall Street pay for its reckless financial behavior that resulted in causing millions of workers to lose their jobs and their homes.

We must make it clear to the bankers that we are insisting on their contributions to a reparations fund, to be used to create jobs for the millions of people whom they victimized.

We will demand that they meet with a committee of labor representatives to negotiate the terms of the reparations fund. If they refuse to negotiate face-to-face, we can apply a variety of pressures to compel them to cooperate.

* * * * *

Until now, the AFL-CIO has limited its complaints against the banks to verbal denunciations, like the angry speeches of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. As a result, working people have borne the burden of the economic crisis, while the banks have been enjoying countless billions in profits, without being challenged.

"Make Wall Street Pay!" is still a justified battle cry. The government bailed out the big banks; it's time the banks returned the favor by bailing out the unemployed.

Let's start the process by organizing bank employees.

LaborTalk will be posted here on August 30, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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