A few years ago in the wake of the financial crisis, a former Soros investor, a media mogul, and a filmmaker hatched a plan. They would harness the power of American consumers to help encourage a better financial system. The group created a clever video and an informational website with a simple message: “Move Your Money.” The campaign took fire and scores of Americans moved their money out of the TBTF banks responsible for the financial crisis and into more responsible institutions. A powerful move by progressive-minded Amalgamated Bank suggests it might be time to revive that campaign for a new expanded mission – to make sure everyone in America makes a living wage beginning with the banking industry.
Today, Amalgamated Bank announced it will raise all employee wages to a minimum of $15 an hour effective immediately. Amalgamated Bank is the preeminent bank of progressive people, organizations, businesses and labor and is an institution that clearly lives its values. “This kind of commitment to people is part of who we are at Amalgamated Bank,” said CEO Keith Mestrich. The bank isn’t just doing the right thing itself, it is aggressively challenging the rest of the industry to follow. “While we’re honored to be the first,” said Mestrich, “we hope the rest of the banking industry swiftly joins us in paying industry employees a living wage.”
We hope so too. But hope is so 1990’s – it’s time for action. Let’s bring back the Move Your Money campaign, this time taking money out of banks that refuse to pay a living wage.
What?! You ask, aren’t all those bankers still making a killing? Yes, the bankers are, but not everyone who works for a bank is Jamie Dimon. According to a new report by the National Employment Law Project, the banking industry has some of the greatest wage disparity in the country. According to the report, full-time bank tellers make on average $25,800 a year, just $12.40 per hour. Compare this to executives like CEO Jamie Dimon who last year netted a cash bonus of $7.4 million to add to his base salary of $1.5 million and $11.1 in company stock for a total compensation package of $20 million. Some bank tellers are even forced to rely on food stamps and EITC payments to make ends meet. A UC Berkeley Labor Center report estimates that nearly one-third of the families of bank tellers are enrolled in one of more public programs. The cost of the benefits to bank teller families is close to $900 million a year. It is worth noting that last year the US banking industry enjoyed net income of $152.7 billion. Yes you read that right. The industry that enjoys a net income of more than $150 billion is costing the taxpayers $900 million a year.
Can you think of a better reason to Move Your Money?