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Bank employees in Bradenton ready to unionize

Written by on Saturday, March 23, 2024

If the Wells Fargo branch office vote passes, they would be among the first bankers nationwide to join a union.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Mar. 22, 2024

Host: Five Wells Fargo bank tellers in Bradenton are part of a new phenomenon. If their petition to be represented by a union affiliated with the Communications Workers of America succeeds, they would be among the first employees of a big bank in the United States to be unionized. Our news team has the details.

Sound of “Money” by Pink Floyd

Johannes Werner:  You’d think banks is where the money is. Maybe. But that’s not the case for bank employees. The annual mean income of a bank teller in Florida is not even $38,000 a year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add to that automatization, coupled with the paradox of an increasing workload on the remaining few tellers, and it becomes clear why banks have become fertile territory for unions.

Corinne Jefferson, a Wells Fargo banker in Daytona Beach, describes what it’s like to work at her bank.

Corinne Jefferson

Corinne Jefferson: You know, I started as a banker. When I started as banker, that’s 14-13 years ago, all I was was a banker. … Well, probably that was my only job that I had to do. I had to focus on that job. I was making like $2,500 every quarter, which is a $10,000 extra bonus. That’s gone. We don’t have that anymore, we’ve gotten into all kinds of trouble, and it was, you know, that whole scandal. So now, I’m not just a banker. I’m a banker, but they can put me on the teller line. I have customers on top, and I have to tell my customers, ‘Well, hold on a second. I gotta go get money out of the vault for the teller,’ because the teller has somebody at their window that needs help. You know, it’s, it’s all this cross-training, and now my job has become, you know, I’m doing more for less. I’m taking on more responsibility, which puts me at risk, and the customer at risk. And my benefits – my deductibles have doubled since I started. My deductible for two people is $7,200 a year out of pocket, and they have other options, but the options aren’t that great. They don’t work for me, for somebody who has health things that they have to go to the doctor for, specialists. So that’s why we’re unionizing.

JW: Late last year, employees in Albuquerque, New Mexico turned Wells Fargo into the first major U.S. bank in decades with unionized employees. Florida is now becoming a hot territory for Wells Fargo unionization. Jefferson’s branch office in Daytona Beach became the second nationwide and first in the state to unionize in January, and this week on Tuesday a branch in Apopka, near Orlando, followed suit. Employees at another branch in Belleview, near The Villages, filed their petition on March 8.

Finally this Tuesday, the wave reached our area when five employees at the Wells Fargo branch on Manatee Avenue West in Bradenton filed their petition with the National Labor Relations Board office in Tampa to hold a union representation vote.

Getting ready for a union vote: Wells Fargo employees at the Manatee Avenue West branch in Bradenton.

The Bradenton employees want to join Wells Fargo Workers United, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America.

Wells Fargo, the third-largest bank in the United States, maintains seven offices in the Bradenton area.

In 2016, the bank was rocked by a national scandal involving the opening of fake accounts, revealing the pressure management exerted on employees.

Corinne Jefferson, the banker at the branch office in Daytona Beach that first unionized, has been a central figure organizing her Wells Fargo colleagues all over Florida. She started years ago to organize through a union precursor, the Committee for Better Banking. Jefferson was also the one who reached out to the Bradenton employees, talking to them about what she and her colleagues have achieved in Daytona Beach.

The next step for the Bradenton employees will be a secret-ballot election organized by the NLRB. Communications Workers of America organizer Meggan Halvorson expects this to happen within three to four weeks. The two previous votes at Wells Fargo branches in Florida were unanimous.

Beyond Bradenton, there are 3,900-plus branches to go, Halvorson says.

Meggan Halvorson: A lot of these workers that are organizing are younger workers. They’re primarily women, and they’re really motivated. Workers are definitely like sticking together, which is fantastic. But ideally, this is something that doesn’t stop just, you know, in Bradenton, or some of the other branches that we’ve already organized in Florida. I mean, there’s 4,000 branches I think at Wells Fargo, and we would love to have them all.

JW: A Florida spokesman for Wells Fargo responded to questions via email.

“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.”

Daytona Beach banker Corinne Jefferson:

CJ: There’s no reason why a big company in the United States can’t take care of their employees. And they really don’t. We have employees that are on assistance through the government. That shouldn’t be, at a company like Wells Fargo. If the big companies aren’t doing it in this country, then who’s gonna do it?

The Wells Fargo bankers in Bradenton are following other union drives in this area, including Starbucks baristas at a University Parkway store – who failed to get a majority vote last summer – and truck drivers with food distributor UNFI, who are expected to hold a vote in April.

Already-unionized UPS drivers in Sarasota picketed their employer last summer, ahead of a historic collective bargaining agreement.

Reporting for WSLR News, this has been Johannes Werner.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.