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Workers at a Wells Fargo branch just became the first at a major U.S. bank to unionize

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Workers at a Wells Fargo & Co. branch in Albuquerque, N.M., voted to unionize on Wednesday, marking the first such vote at a major U.S. bank.

The workers who participated in the election voted 5-3 in favor of joining Wells Fargo Workers United, which is part of the Communications Workers of America.

In voting to unionize, the bankers and tellers at the Wells Fargo
WFC,
-1.50%

branch joined a broader unionization push that has emerged at companies like Starbucks Corp.
SBUX,
-3.08%

and Amazon.com Inc.
AMZN,
-1.09%
,
as workers seek more say at their jobs following more than three years of pandemic-related disruptions and rising prices.

The workers first filed for unionization with the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 20. The Wall Street Journal said that a Wells Fargo branch in Bethel, Alaska, was also set to hold a unionization vote on Thursday, and that two branches — in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Atwater, Calif. — have also filed for elections.

“Our victory today is the first of many to come,” Sabrina Perez, a senior premier banker at the branch, said in a statement on the website for the Committee for Better Banks, which was founded by Communication Workers of America. “Despite Wells Fargo’s aggressive attempts to dissuade us, we are igniting a fire and showing our colleagues across the industry that not only is change possible, it is within reach.”

Workers are seeking higher wages and better benefits across the company. They’re also hoping to push back against branch closures and what they said was “rampant understaffing, low pay and mismanagement.”

The statement from the Committee for Better Banks noted that workers at smaller banks have also organized. But experts say labor laws still largely favor employers, and the more difficult task of hammering out a contract could take time and run up against delays and stall tactics.

A representative for the group said they did not have any information yet on when contract negotiations might begin, and had not yet heard from the bank. Wells Fargo, when reached, said it did not have any information on when talks might start.

“We respect our employees’ rights to vote for union representation,” Wells Fargo said in a statement. “At the same time, we continue to believe our employees are best served by working directly with the company and its leadership.”

Shares of Wells Fargo were up 0.9% after hours on Wednesday, after finishing the regular trading day 1.5% lower.

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