If Elizabeth Warren Wants to Probe Worker Abuse on Wall Street, Start With the Unprecedented Rash of Deaths and Suicides
On September 22, 2016 eight Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley and Sherrod Brown, wrote to the Department of Laborrequesting an investigation of the banking behemoth, Wells Fargo, to determine if it violated labor laws. The letter came amidst the public outcry over news that Wells Fargo’s employees had opened as many as 2 million customer accounts without authorization in order to meet stringent sales quotas for cross-selling products. The Senators wrote in the letter:
“…dozens of former and current Wells Fargo employees have come forward to describe the lengths they went to in order to meet the bank’s aggressive sales quotas. When quotas weren’t met, employees faced threats of termination; mandated hours of unpaid overtime; harassment; and other forms of retaliation. For years Wells Fargo employees have described a management culture characterized by ‘mental abuse,’ being forced to work overtime ‘for what felt like after-school detention’ during the week and on weekends, and being ‘severely chastised and embarrassed in front of 60-plus managers.’ ”
Unfortunately, the Senators demonstrate their naiveté about Wall Street’s longstanding and systemic abuse of its workers when they suggest that Wells Fargo has done something uniquely evil to its employees. The Senators write that “Wells Fargo stands out” because it denied overtime pay to its workers dating back as far as 1999.
In reality, cheating low-wage workers out of overtime pay is de rigueur among the biggest banks on Wall Street, as a long series of lawsuits have made clear. As recently as 2014 the serially charged JPMorgan Chase settled a class action lawsuit for $12 million which alleged that its bank tellers and other employees in 12 states were forced to work off the clock for part of their workday with managers actually altering their time cards to reduce JPMorgan’s labor costs. In the same year, Wall Street powerhouse Morgan Stanley settled on the cheap for $4.2 million over allegations it failed to pay its low-wage sales assistants their overtime pay. Eight years earlier, Morgan Stanley settled a lawsuit brought by its California brokers and broker trainees for $42.5 million for failure to pay legally required overtime pay.