SEIU Writes Bank Of America, Calls For Lewis' Outright Firing

06/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Officials with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are calling on the new chairman of Bank of America to fire recently-replaced chairman Ken Lewis and commit the troubled banking giant to "real financial reform" from top to bottom.

SEIU'S Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger sent the letter to new BofA Chairman Walter E. Massey on Tuesday, a week after Massey took over the post from Lewis following a shareholder's meeting.

In the note, Burger stressed that in addition to removing Lewis from his remaining functions (he serves currently as CEO), systematic changes need to be made to how BofA treats its employees. Among other concerns, she urged Massey to:

* Provide access to affordable healthcare to all bank workers; and

* Stop lobbying against the Employee Free Choice Act and other legislation which would ensure bank workers have a voice to protect consumers and improve living conditions and wages.

"It is also important that you begin a new dialogue with the thousands of tellers, personal bankers, call center workers, and other employees who are at the frontlines of the financial industry and the public face of the bank. Many of these employees have been in discussions with the Service Employees International Union about how they can work together to improve their jobs and their industry," reads the note. "Bank of America has already received $45 billion in TARP funds and taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $150 billion more in public assistance. No employer, especially one that receives this much taxpayer funding, should use these funds to deny employees their right to unite for a voice on the job."

The letter comes just weeks after SEIU's Private Equity Project Director, Stephen Lerner, penned a similar note to Lewis himself, airing concerns -- as relayed by BofA employees -- about "uncompensated work time," "expensive health benefits," and "a lack of clarity about how raises and promotions are received."

Letters like these usually fall on deaf ears when it comes to corporate governance. But the SEIU has accumulated some notable influence when it comes to BofA affairs. The union helped mobilize and organize shareholders to vote Lewis out of the Chairman post -- though the bank's crumbling finances and dependence on government bailouts played, likely, an even larger role. The SEIU has also been making repeated efforts to unionize a portion of the bank's nearly 250,000 employees.

Read Anna Burger's April 30, 2009 letter to Walter Massey.

Read Stephen Lerner's March 20, 2009 letter to Ken Lewis (which never received a written response).

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