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Beaverton Valley Times: Hillsboro Wells Fargo call center employees call foul on 'union-busting'

This article first appeared in The Beaverton Valley Times on June 12, 2023

Wells Fargo call center employees in Hillsboro allege the financial services company is retaliating against its employees through union-busting activities.

In the latest in a slew of complaints from the Wells Fargo William Barnhart call center, employees accuse the international bank’s management of removing union-related flyers in the workplace, which would violate the National Labor Relations Act.

Meghan Merez, a Wells Fargo lead customer resolution representative, said in an interview that she was hanging flyers in break rooms and lunchrooms late last year while advocating for better staffing.

As she posted the papers, she was met by a security guard taking them down. The security guard told her building management directed him to remove the signage.

Other employees said they were experiencing “union-busting” issues, and the three filed an unfair labor practice charge against the San Francisco-based bank on behalf of the Hillsboro employees.

They accuse the bank’s management of interfering with employee rights to unionize or “advance their interest as employees.”

The Communications Workers of America union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Wells Fargo on May 5 through the National Labor Relations Board due to the complaints.

Employees at the Hillsboro Wells Fargo call center are in the process of discussing unionization, in partnership with the Communication Workers of America.

“We’re organizing mainly because we want to build a better bank for ourselves, our future,” Merez said. “We want to better serve our customers and we really want more of a say in how things are run around the bank.”

Through a spokesperson, Wells Fargo declined to comment on the accusations.

Meanwhile, Merez said news just broke that the Sunset Park call center, at 23145 N.E. Bennett St. in Hillsboro, is being vacated by Wells Fargo after five years. Those employees are to be moved to the Barnhart Center location.

A pattern of complaints

This is not the first time the county's fourth largest bank has come under fire by unions and employees in recent months, and it’s not the first time locally.

This recent accusation comes on the back of another unfair labor practice charge that Merez initiated late last year.

In August 2022, Merez and others in her department were told that they were being moved to a different department.

Shortly thereafter, new employees were being brought onto similar teams in other locations, for about $5 per hour more than the existing employees were making.

“Wells Fargo said their philosophy was to not pay people who moved over to new roles the same as new hires,” Merez said.

She added, “I’ve been here seven years. Why should I be getting paid — with the experience I have — the same as new hires for the same work?”

Merez’s team was subsequently denied their annual bonuses, she said, and flexibility in their roles was reduced.

“It felt like all these actions were in retaliation to our raised concerns of fair pay,” Merez said.

Those accusations, formally filed in November 2022, are still pending, according to the National Labor Relations Board website.

Also in Hillsboro, employees at the William Barnhart Center sounded the alarm during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying employees continued to work in close quarters in the office while work-from-home was not offered during the March 2020 stay home order issued by then-Gov. Kate Brown.

Farther east, Wells Fargo reached a settlement with a Salt Lake City Wells Fargo employee earlier this year, relating to unfair labor practice allegations in a similar situation in which a manager made threats to an employee who was passing out pro-union information in a breakroom, according to Bloomberg Law.

Wells Fargo leadership is growing concerned with talks of unionization, according to a recent article on Internal documents show that Wells Fargo leadership is keeping tabs and noting increases in unionizing activities across its branches.