Video produced and edited by Jordan Zakarin and Ian McKenna.
Wells Fargo, the fourth largest bank in the US, has been rocked by costly scandals for years, all the while employees struggle to make ends meet. Now workers are organizing to protect both employees and their clients. Below is a full transcript of the video.
[News clip]: Wells Fargo, they are facing a lot of heat this morning —
[News clip]: a lawsuit against Wells Fargo claiming discriminatory mortgage practices…
[News clip]: …the company scheduled fake job interviews to increase diversity numbers in annual reports…
[News clip]: …forging customer signatures, creating pins to activate unauthorized debit cards, and moving money to unauthorized accounts…
NICK WEINER: So I think that’s the missing ingredient is workers having a union at Wells Fargo so that the bank could move beyond a scandal a month,
NICK : to be able to push back against unfair metrics and sales pressures.
Wells Fargo Workers United is fighting to protect themselves—and you
CHRISTINA GRATZER: While, I have my 90 year old mother waiting to have a shower at 8:30. But I was on the phone trying to make a sale. What did that get me? That got me nothing. What did that get upper management? That got more into their pocketbook and into their retirement fund and into their I can buy an island fund, or whatever they’re doing with their money. But morally, morally, that behavior was not right in my book.
Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest bank in America as of June 2022, has been rocked by scandal for years.
NICK: Well, it’s hard to keep track of. Wells Fargo has had so many scandals, it’s difficult to count them all.
JESSIE MCCOOL: And I think it speaks to just how rotten to the core Wells Fargo is when it comes to toxic subculture. We have these external scandals, whether we’re taking or opening up fake accounts or our performance reporting is incorrect or we’re over here, you know, foreclosing on homes And, we’re damaging our external client, but we’re not doing anything for our employees either.
Workers say corporate pressure has helped fuel these scandals.
NICK: That kind of pressure resulted in, you know, this situation where workers had to decide, am I going to keep my job and put food on the table, or do I have to find some way to meet this metric of “eight is great.”
“Eight is great” was the mantra of former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, used to push eight Wells Fargo products to each customer.
[Elizabeth Warren]: Other big banks average fewer than three accounts per customer. But you set the target at eight accounts—every customer of Wells should have eight accounts with the bank.
JESSIE: Over the past ten years, the way that I’ve raised issues itself has been a red flag.
CHRISTINA: H.R. is still working for Wells Fargo. So if you have a union that can nip things in the bud because employees may be afraid to reach out to H.R.
JESSIE: During the sales practices scandal, the H.R. department ignored almost 6,000 claims of issues like how it’d be feeling being forced to open up accounts at a branch. You kind of see that. Hmm. You know, they’re not really, it’s not really well received when you raise your hand.
JESSIE: So if we can’t raise your hand and that’s what we’re being instructed to do, how do we take the power back that is due to us as employees and do to our customers as the end user of our products?
CHRISTINA: Besides that, scandals are not free.
Wells Fargo paid out $3 billion following the account fraud scandal, when it opened approximately 3.5 million unauthorized accounts on behalf of customers.
CHRISTINA: So every time there is a scandal that costs money and a lot of money. So in my humble opinion, I believe that if they took that money that is spent digging themselves out of scandals and put it into something positive like their employees, whether it be better health care raises, that would be huge.
Organizing workers say pay is just part of their calls for change.
JESSIE: So the main four issues to summarize that we see at Wells Fargo are transparency as it relates to pay, safety as it relates to our physical safety or COVID based safety. Equal application and adherence to policies and procedures. And then finally, the diversity and inclusion issues that we’ve heard so much about recently in the press.
Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf’s pay was 290 times the median employee’s pay in FY 2021.
NICK: The thing that really ticked off workers this last winter was I think Charlie Scharf got a 20% raise and workers got a 1 to 3% raise.
CHRISTINA: When I got 0%, when they handed me the paper, I kind of thought it was a joke. I said to my manager, but nothing changed. And she said, that’s right.
CHRISTINA: I don’t know how harsh a word to use other than I believe it’s gluttony.
JESSIE: There’s not that same examination of enriching the worker in the same way that we might enrich an investor.
CHRISTINA: I started working for DoorDash, I believe it was in 2017, and it was to make extra money. I didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck.
JESSIE: It hurts me to see, while it hurts me to see people not being paid what they should and it hurts me, you know, in a world where there’s so many disadvantages. When you’re not the Charlie Scharf white guy at the top.
CHRISTINA: No one working for a company such as Wells Fargo, a big bank or any Fortune 500 company, should ever be forced to take a second job just to have fun, just to have and meet ends. You’re putting in 40 hours, you’re in front of the public on a daily basis. So I believe that one job should absolutely meet your needs.
Workers have been organizing as Wells Fargo Workers United with the help of the committee for Better Banks.
NICK: So we provide training and support and knowledge so the workers have the tools they can to engage folks.
NICK: Workers are looking forward to having a voice and to organize a union so they can fix problems and how their working conditions impact customers.
Workers say that union protections will not only help Wells Fargo employees but could help customers by instituting measures to help stop predatory practices.
CHRISTINA: I believe that a union will help prevent scandals, mainly because if you see something, you feel safe and secure to say something right away.
NICK: If they had a union, right, they’d have that so that they could talk to a regulator and tell them what’s really going on without worrying that they’re going to suffer consequences the next day.
JESSIE: If you need us to make this business run, you need to be accountable to us. And we collectively can enforce that and stand up for our rights as employees and then stand up for our rights as or for our clients.
Videography by Stephanie Figgins and John Jacobsen