Wells Fargo Illegally Cheats Union Families by Cutting Off Health Care

08/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mike Elk Labor reporter at POLITICO; Member of the Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild

Last week, I wrote about workers who were fighting back against Wells Fargo after the bank cut off credit to Quad City Die Casting factory on Moline, Ill., causing the factory to close. This week Wells Fargo has cut off health care benefits to the workers, according to the union, which says the decision violates federal labor laws.

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1174, which represents the workers, filed charges yesterday with the National Labor Relations Board. The company also informed employees that Wells Fargo would not approve the expenditure of owed vacation pay, and the company has refused to pay a two percent wage increase due the employees under their legally binding collective bargaining agreement.

As Wells Fargo cuts off credit to Quad City and forces it to break its collective bargaining agreement with its workers, the bank has $25 billion in federal bailout funds that were intended in part to make credit more available to businesses.

"Wells Fargo first ends financing, forcing our company to close, and now they won't pay us what we are owed by law. To us, our vacation, insurance and wages mean everything to our families. But to Wells Fargo it's pennies, not even a blip in their billions. Yet they choose to cheat us out of what we have earned," said Deb Johann, a union member employed at the factory.

According to management officials, Wells Fargo approves all expenditures by the company on a weekly basis. Workers are calling upon federal officials to investigate the practices of Wells Fargo.

The UE that represents workers at the plant is the same union that occupied Republic Windows and Doors last summer. Its members are engaging in direct action against Wells Fargo, calling on the bank to keep the plant open. Workers continue to demand that Wells Fargo do what is necessary to keep the company in business until a sale of the company is finalized. According to parties familiar with the discussions, there are currently several interested parties looking to make a bid to purchase Quad City Die Casting.

The union says that after having received $25 billion in bailout money, Wells Fargo has an obligation to promote economic recovery by keeping the plant open. UE Director of Organization Bob Kingsley said, "We can't let this giant bank default on its obligation to the American people and the people of the Quad Cities. Wells Fargo is a roadblock to economic recovery."