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Union Activity Infiltrates the Banking Industry; Who’s Next?


Originally Published in the CT Law Tribune


Union Activity Infiltrates the Banking Industry; Who’s Next?

Union filings are standing out in an industry traditionally resistant to labor campaigns. Many more petitions may be on the horizon.

February 07, 2024, at 12:48 PM

By Robert G. Brody and Mark J. Taglia | February 07, 2024, at 12:48 PM

The end of the year is a busy time for most. So, it comes as no surprise that many missed the major union headline regarding Wells Fargo & Co. at the end of 2023. In late November, the National Labor Relations Board received

petitions from bankers, wealth management advisors and tellers at Wells Fargo branches in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Bethel, Alaska. Shortly thereafter, an additional three petitions were filed at branches in Daytona Beach, Florida; Atwater, California; and Wilmington, Delaware.

A sixth branch, located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, just filed with the NLRB last week, and now a seventh has been filed here in Prospect, Connecticut. In all these petitions, the Wells Fargo employees expressed their desire to join Wells Fargo Workers United, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America.

These filings stand out in an industry traditionally resistant to labor campaigns. They are the first-ever union elections not only at Wells Fargo but at any major US bank. Wells Fargo is the country’s fourth-largest bank with over 7,000 locations in the United States.

Since their initial filings, two of the branches, Daytona Beach and Albuquerque, voted for unionization, while the Atwater branch voted against unionizing and the Bethel branch withdrew its petition before voting. The remaining two branches, located in Wilmington and Virginia Beach, have votes scheduled for later this month. While these locations are Wells Fargo’s first branches to request elections, they are not the only ones with union activity. Far from it! The bank has been battling with the union for more than two years.

Last May, the bank settled claims alleging one of its managers prevented employees from distributing pro-union materials in its Salt Lake City call center. In August the NLRB determined the bank’s Oregon call center unlawfully prevented employees from distributing union flyers. Throughout these controversies, employees demand better pay and working conditions.

Union organizers believe many more election petitions are on the near horizon. Organizers claim to have the names of more than 1,000 Wells Fargo employees from around the country who have signed petitions in support of the union campaign.

Unionizing historically involved word of mouth and personal meetings. Geographic proximity was required to spread the word. That is no longer the case. The Internet supplants geography. As Starbucks found, once members of the business express an interest in unions, the Internet takes over and the threat becomes national.

For our regular readers, you will note a growing trend. Unions are becoming more active and are reaching into traditionally union-free sectors as they ride a wave of national support. In recent months, various sectors, including automotive, entertainment, and aerospace, have witnessed increased union activities, often resulting in concessions from employers. Notably, the Detroit Big Three automakers yielded to unions, agreeing to substantial pay hikes and other significant concessions. In recent years we have also seen major brands face and lose battles with unions, including the likes of Amazon, REI, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Apple.

So, should we be surprised by what we are seeing at Wells Fargo? No. The financial sector, the replacement to American smokestack industries, historically has been untouched by unionization efforts but unions know service and financial industries are where their survival resides. Wells Fargo employees at the forefront of this campaign are challenging the status quo, setting the stage for potential changes in an industry that has up until now evaded such collective movements.

Which industry or market segment will be next? Could it be yours?

Robert G. Brody and Mark J. Taglia are with Brody and Associates in Westport, Connecticut.