Wells Fargo workers file petition with NLRB to join union

Some employees say working conditions and pay concerns at their branches have made them want to unionize.

Employees at two Wells Fargo branches in Albuquerque, NM, and Bethel, AK, have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), indicating they plan to hold elections to join the Communications Workers of America’s Wells Fargo Workers United. 

Sabrina Perez, an Albuquerque-based senior premier banker at Wells Fargo, told the WSJ on Monday that she and her colleagues began talking seriously about unionization because bankers in her branch were pulling double duty as tellers, and customers complained of long wait times. But when workers raised their concerns to management, they were told nothing would be done, Perez said. 

Some employees who left the branch at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic had not been replaced, she added. 

While 10% of the US workforce was part of a union last year, that proportion dips to 1.3% in financial services, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unfair labor practices alleged

The Communications Workers of America filed three Unfair Labor Practice charges with the NLRB against Wells Fargo in response to workers’ allegations that managers interfered with their right to join together in a union and advertise their efforts to unionize, and that they retaliated against those actively organizing.

And last month, Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to investigate allegations of labor abuse by Wells Fargo, particularly with respect to employees’ unionization efforts.

“Regulators should take stronger actions to change Wells Fargo’s culture of noncompliance and account for the troubling unfair labor practice allegations that could be the bellwether for broader safety and soundness and consumer compliance risks,” Brown wrote in his letter to acting OCC chief Michael Hsu and Michael Barr, the Fed’s vice chair for supervision.

In a statement sent to the WSJ, Wells Fargo’s CEO of Consumer, Small & Business Banking Saul Van Beurden said the bank improved compensation and benefits for lower-paid employees in recent years. He said the bank listened to the concerns of workers that “have driven many of the enhancements we have made”.