News

1 Million People Demand Better Banks

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Demonstrators gather outside Citibank's headquarters in Manhattan.

Below: Bank workers overseas show solidarity with U.S. workers.

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More than 1 million people demanded better working conditions in the United States financial industry in the streets and through social media on Tuesday. CWA partnered with UNI Finance and the Committee for Better Banks for the global day of action that culminated with an international delegation of workers protesting in front of Citibank's headquarters on Wall Street to denounce the inequalities and injustices faced by America's bank workers.

Support poured in from a variety of stakeholders, including CWA Local 1180; New York City Public Avocate Letitia James; UNITE, the largest union in the UK; UNI Finance affiliates from Ireland, the Netherlands, Malta, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Australia and Tunisia; New-York based community groups; the Occupy Wall Street movement; and more. Outside of Citibank, activists chanted, "Solidarity forever and the unions make us strong," a popular song in the African trade union movement, and "They got bailed out, we got sold out."

"I have been to sales rallies, where the top executives of the company brag about how great the stock is doing, then the next morning I have to listen to one of my tellers complain she doesn't have enough money to buy baby formula for her child," said Robert Freeman, a former bank worker who is now working to organize the industry.

A new report found that even in New York City, the world capital of finance, U.S. bank workers are worse off than their global counterparts. In fact, bank workers in developing countries – like Tanzania, Lebanon, the Philippines and Malaysia – have far greater rights because they have a voice in the workplace through their union.

The New York Daily News reported:

  • On average, bank workers in the 22 countries surveyed have six months of paid parental leave vs. the U.S., where most workers receive very little paid parental leave.
  • In Germany, bank workers get 72 weeks of paid sick leave at 100% pay; the average in New York is four weeks.
  • In Nepal, a collective bargaining contract has helped reduce the number of jobs being outsourced, whereas New York has shed 19,800 financial services jobs since 2008.

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Colombian bank employees join the rally.

Below: Activists from all around the world sent photos in support of the day of action.

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"It's ridiculous. How can the supposedly richest, most wealthy, most powerful country in the world treat its workers worse than countries that have lower living standards," said Alex Shalom, a Bank of America teller. "What's the difference? Why does Tanzania have better standards than the United States in banking? The only answer is that people there are organized and ready to fight for their rights, and here, we need to do that as well."

On Tuesday, UNI Finance Secretary General Philip Jennings also sent a letter to Citibank CEO Michael Corbat, asking for a meeting with the trade union movement.

Christy Hoffman, deputy general secretary for UNI Global Union, said that this day of action was a new milestone for the U.S. bank workers campaign. "Nowadays, it is really hard to build unions in the United States and this kind of innovative solidarity movement can make a change by delivering the message to the U.S. workers that they are not alone," she said.

To learn more visit the UNI's campaign website here.

And click here to send a message to the CEO of Citibank.