Everyone knows banks don’t pay out interest anymore. The pathetic numbers aren’t even worth mentioning. In a time where the economy is rebounding and banks are making money, one might think banks are pinching pennies. This is not true. According to Keith Mestrich, CEO of Amalgamated Bank, banks have enough money to pay employees 25% higher wages, but they just don’t. Wow.
According to a recent study, full time bank tellers earn an average of $28,500 per year on a median wage of $12.44 an hour, despite working in one of the highest grossing industries in the world.
At a time when banks are thriving and many CEOs make tens of millions of dollars annually, this is simply unacceptable. Banks must act now to raise the wage and stand up for the workers who make possible their success. That’s why this week at Amalgamated Bank we announced that we’ve raised our minimum wage to $15 per hour and challenged the rest of the industry to do the same.
Nationwide, around 25 percent of all working people rely on at least one form of public assistance. Among workers in financial services, that number is nearly 31 percent. When banks fail to pay a living wage, they are passing the cost of services for their employees on to taxpayers.
The tellers, customer service reps, new account clerks, collectors, and cleaners who work at our financial institutions are crucial to keeping the economy growing, and they deserve the dignity of a fair wage. It is wrong that they have been left to fend for themselves for so long.
We know that not all the other banks will follow our lead immediately, but we hope this starts an honest and productive conversation because this issue is too important to be ignored any longer. By giving our employees an honest wage, we strengthen the communities that we serve and the economies we all rely on.
At Amalgamated Bank we will pay every bank employee, regardless of position, a minimum wage of $15 an hour. This immediate change sends a message that we believe in our people, and feel they deserve a living wage. It is my sincere hope that other banks will follow us by recognizing that when it comes to the minimum wage, doing the right thing is simply good business.
Keith Mestrich is Amalgamated Bank’s president and CEO.