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Bank of Labor puts union money back to work — for unions

Bank of Labor’s newest office opened in 2015 in Washington, D.C., expanding operations to reach the headquarters of many U.S.-based unions.

Nation’s only labor majority-owned and -operated bank keeps focus on growing America’s middle class

BANK OF LABOR’S vision statement doesn’t say a thing about banking. Or investing. Or really even money, for that matter. Its vision is to “re-establish nationwide the opportunity for all Americans to work and earn a ‘family wage’ in order to maintain a thriving and robust middle class.” In other words, to make it possible for anyone who wants to learn a trade, invest themselves in quality training and work hard, to do so and subsequently earn good wages to take care of their families and, one day, retire with a pension.

Bank of Labor’s vision is just one thing that sets the nation’s only labor majority-owned and -operated bank apart from other financial institutions.

“This is about the national labor movement,” says Bank of Labor Market President Mike Snowden. “This is not about a bank. The bank is a vehicle we ride into combat to defeat the (enemies of organized labor). It’s our Abrams M1A1 tank, and we’re trying to grow our market share to support organized labor.”

Support from Bank of Labor comes in the form of union advocacy; investing financial and political capital that furthers organized labor; cultivating strategic partnerships to strengthen organized labors’ influence and reach; and financing union training centers, such as the recently-opened J.G. Cooksey WSJAC Boilermaker Training Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Financing more training centers for the Boilermakers and other unions is important, Snowden notes, because the centers offer the quality training and apprenticeship needed for workers to qualify for jobs that provide family wages commensurate with their skills, and because the centers become marketing and recruitment tools for unions.

Snowden explains that unlike the “big four” and other large “traditional” banks, Bank of Labor is not beholden to “big corporate America” customer stakeholders —many of whom, he says, would like to do away with organized labor.

“These major financial institutions’ political agendas are very parallel to the agendas of big business in America — because that’s their customer base,” he says. “They want what their customers want.” Which means, he says, investing their finances and political influence in ways that can hurt the labor movement. “So, when organized labor (unions or individual members) puts our money in those banks, we’re basically adding to their total deposit picture. We’re literally helping them advocate against organized labor. Bank of Labor is your bank. It belongs to you.”

The bank has always been aligned with Boilermakers. Established almost 100 years ago by the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers — originally as the Brotherhood State Bank in Kansas City, Kansas — the bank underwent major changes several years ago with a goal to expand nationwide and into more areas of organized labor. Bank services include an array of banking and trust services — from business banking and lending and union member banking to retirement services, mutual funds, personal trust services and more.

Over the past few years, the bank has rebranded as Bank of Labor, grown a customer base that spans organizations and individuals in nearly every state, opened an office in Washington, D.C., financed multiple training centers and financed — when no commercial bank would do so — the purchase of a lobster wholesale business by the Maine lobstermen who were responsible for catching the lobster in the first place. Financing the Maine lobstermen’s wholesale operations put the lobstermen in control of their product sales and profits and led to the creation of the Maine Lobstering Union as part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (watch this video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHrs0BksVyA ).

In 2017, Bank of Labor’s new loan closings increased 235 percent and new trust accounts increased 868 percent over the previous year, and the bank brought in more than $40 million in new deposits, added new staff members and invested significantly in technology.

Bank of Labor’s growth and development is no accident. The bank’s leaders and Board of Directors set a clear plan with strategies for advancement, including:

  • Aggregating union money
  • Leveraging union money for union jobs
  • Growing in ranking among financial institutions
  • Financing new training facilities
  • Working side-by-side with union business developers
  • Tapping every union member as a recruiter/organizer and marketer

Those strategies not only continue increasing awareness and expansion of Bank of Labor but in doing so also strengthen the overall labor movement, Snowden asserts.

“I absolutely believe in the cause, Bank of Labor’s vision,” says Snowden, who came out of retirement to work for Labor Bank operations two years ago. “I wanted to be a part of turning [the labor movement and America’s middle class] around. A lot of this effort is going to be on the backs of the American worker — not because of some political party.

“America was made great because of hard working men and women, and if we are to return to the greatness that America once knew, it will again be done on the backs of Americans — committed, united and hard-working every-day Americans.”

For more information on Bank of Labor, visit www.bankoflabor.com.

(Bank of Labor is a Member of the FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.)