We Reached an Agreement with Communications Workers of America Employee Union in Historic Step for Financial Industry
Sep 29, 2021
Beneficial State Bank, a mission-driven community bank serving California, Oregon, and Washington, has reached an agreement with the Communications Workers of America employee union as part of its efforts to empower workers and set an example for the rest of the banking industry
Sept. 29, 2021, Oakland, Calif. – Beneficial State Bank has reached an agreement with its employees represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), marking the first time bankers have established a union agreement in more than 40 years.
Over 100 Beneficial State Bank employees joined the union in March of 2020. The CWA had approached the bank the year prior, seeking to represent the employees of a responsible bank. From the outset, Beneficial State management agreed to remain neutral during the organizing process and voluntarily recognize the union if adopted, citing its commitment to worker empowerment and self-determination.
"This union agreement demonstrates that the financial industry can empower its workers and remain successful. We're glad to demonstrate that the classic dynamic of workers versus management doesn't have to exist—it can be workers and management collaborating to work toward a better banking industry," said Beneficial State Bank CEO Randell Leach.
Beneficial State pays above the MIT living wage calculation across its footprint and offers generous benefits packages to all employees, but it is an exception in the financial sector, where inequity is widespread. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for bank tellers was $29,450 in 2019—so low that one in three bank tellers relies on some form of government assistance.
Prior to working at Beneficial State, when I was a call center worker at Wells Fargo, I didn’t know it was possible for bank workers to form a union, let alone negotiate a contract with management. At Wells Fargo, I was constantly under extreme sales pressure and knew that if I spoke up, I would be putting my job at risk. At Beneficial State, not only do I have a voice on the job, but I have an actual say when it comes to pay and metrics and ensuring we’re providing the best financial services possible for customers. With this contract, we’re truly driving Beneficial State’s mission to help serve our communities.
"This contract marks an important moment not just for Beneficial State workers but for management who knows that an open dialogue with employees supports Beneficial State’s mission to serve customers," said Keith Gibbs, President of CWA Local 9412, which represents Beneficial State Bank employees in California. "I am very proud of Beneficial State workers for taking an important step towards a more just and equitable banking system, and I am optimistic that this is only the start of a larger conversation for the industry."
"We hope bank management’s support of our employees’ decision to unionize inspires others in the financial services industry to provide workers a living wage, great benefits, and a solid platform to ensure they have a voice," Leach said.
[Updated on November 17, 2021 to include pictures of the union contract signing on November 4, 2021. Pictured are Christina McAlvey, who represented union members of Beneficial State Bank; Louis Rocha, CWA representative; and Randell Leach, CEO of Beneficial State Bank.]
Beneficial State Bank (Beneficial State) is a state-chartered, federally insured bank with branches in California, Oregon, and Washington. Beneficial State serves the triple bottom line of people, planet, and prosperity for all, which involves serving its communities, supporting positive environmental outcomes, and achieving long-term financial sustainability. A unique ownership structure supports these strategic priorities: the bank’s capital is majority-owned by the nonprofit Beneficial State Foundation. This means its economic rights are fully aligned with, and permanently governed in, the public interest.
Beneficial State Bank is a founding signatory of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Banking, a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Fossil Free Certified, and one of the world’s top-rated Certified B Corporations, awarded B Corp "Best for the World" status every year since 2013.
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