Some Wells Fargo employees vote in favor of unionization; others reject

By Bhanvi Satija, Jaiveer Shekhawat and Nupur Anand

(Reuters) -Wells Fargo employees at its Albuquerque, New Mexico branch voted to join a union on Wednesday, while some of the other bank employees at the bank’s branch in Bethel, Alaska withdrew from the unionization effort, according to a source.

Elections at the Alaska branch were going to be held on Thursday but they have now been withdrawn, a source said.

“We are pleased with this development and will continue to respect the rights of our employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union,” said Amy Bonitatibus, Wells Fargo chief communications officer.

The Committee For Better Bankers that is helping with the bank unionization effort did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Alaska branch.

With the unionization effort at the Albuquerque branch, Wells Fargo, has become the first major U.S. lender to have a unionized workforce.

The employees at that branch voted 5 to 3 in favor of joining the Communications Workers of America’s Wells Fargo Workers United (WFWU), the union said.

The vote stands “as a testament to workers in the financial services industry who know we need a collective voice to improve the industry we are integral to,” said Sabrina Perez, a Senior Premier Banker at Wells Fargo’s Albuquerque branch.

The vote makes the San Francisco-based lender the first big U.S. bank with a union, marking a rare win for such efforts in an industry that has largely been immune to them.

“We respect our employees’ rights to vote for union representation. At the same time, we continue to believe our employees are best served by working directly with the Company and its leadership,” Wells Fargo said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Recent unionization campaigns have led to tense showdowns between employees and corporate behemoths. Lucrative deals clinched by unions such as the United Auto Workers, which secured record pay hikes for employees, have bolstered support for unionization.

In the lead-up to the vote, the bank had highlighted several measures it had taken to address some of the concerns raised by its employees, such as improving compensation and benefits for lower-paid workers and bumping up median base salaries.

But at a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee earlier this month, CEO Charlie Scharf, when asked if the bank would remain neutral during the unionization effort, said Wells Fargo would exercise its right “to speak with (the employees) to make sure they make an informed decision”.

Employees at the Daytona Beach, Florida branch have also filed for union elections which are expected to be held in January, a source said.

The result of the Albuquerque branch vote was first reported by Bloomberg News.

(Reporting by Bhanvi Satija, Niket Nishant and Jaiveer Shekhawat in Bengaluru; Nupur Anand in New York; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Stephen Coates)