For Immediate Release: Monday, March 27, 2016
As Santander fails to meet consumer protection laws, Workers Shut Down Santander Headquarters in Mass Protest
Community members, consumer advocates, elected officials join movement to end unethical banking and respect workers’ union rights
BOSTON – As Santander faces growing scrutiny for discriminatory and predatory lending practices, bank workers from across the country descended on the Boston headquarters today to demonstrate the growing movement of opposition the bank faces over unethical banking practices and poor working conditions.
The protest adds to a growing chorus of concern over revelations of the bank’s widespread discriminatory practices and unethical banking that harms entire communities of workers and customers, with the Fed taking regulatory action just last week against the bank’s subprime auto-lending unit.
“As a teller at Santander, I know firsthand the pressure that low-wages and unreasonable sales goals put on frontline workers,” said Juan Rojas, a teller based in New York City. “I’ve worked at Santander for over 3 years, but I still make less than $13 an hour, and I made about $12.50 when I started. Whenever I ask my manager about why we make so little at one of the world’s most profitable companies, he just tells me I have to sell more if I want to make more. Since I won’t push products on customers that don’t meet their financial needs, I know that my best hope for real change comes from joining my coworkers and demanding a union.
Holding signs that read “Justice for bank workers” and “Union now,” workers, housing rights advocates, and community members who have faced the bank’s discrimination firsthand joined together in a brave confrontation and occupation of Santander headquarters.
The protest comes on the heels of a report from the Committee for Better Banks finding discrimination in the bank’s mortgage lending practice. In response, eleven Senators—including Sen. Warren, Sen. Booker, and Sen. Gillibrand—also sent a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency demanding further investigation into racial and economic bias at the bank.
As Santander’s annual meeting approaches next month, workers and members of the Committee for Better Banks are calling on executives and shareholders to address the failures of Santander operations in the U.S., which continually fail to meet the same standards of worker and customer protections as it does abroad. This weekend, hundreds of bank workers across the Committee for Better Banks met in Boston to plan the next phase of their organizing efforts, expand the network of Santander workers in the US and abroad, and plan the message they intend to send to Santander shareholders ahead of their annual meeting next month.
“We are willing to take this fight to Santander’s front door in Boston, the halls of Congress, and to executives overseas—whatever it takes to get workers and their customers what they deserve: a voice on the job and access to fair, ethical banking,” said Teresa Casertano with the Communication Workers of America.
Santander is the only bank in America to fail the Federal Reserve stress test three years in a row. In just the last couple of years, Santander has been fined more than $1 billion for deceptive practices from illegal overdrafts, overcharging black and Latino customers, illegally repossessing cars owned by members of the U.S. armed services serving oversees. At the same time, the bank has profited off the Puerto Rican debt crisis by underwriting more than $60 billion of the island’s $70 billion in debt—essentially making billions from a crisis they helped engineer.
In dozens of countries in Europe and South America, Santander workers have been able to form their unions and work with bank managers to improve both their jobs and customer service. Last month, Santander workers across eight countries joined together to protest and deliver petitions to executives demanding U.S. workers receive the same right to a union.
The Committee for Better Banks is supported by the Communications Workers of America, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), New Jersey Communities United, Minnesotans for Fair Economy, Jobs with Justice and local affiliates, and UNI Global Union.