SEIU, Wells Fargo exchanged letters on school loans before shutdown

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Well before last week’s request — and before the start of the state government shutdown — Service Employees International Union Local 284 urged Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank to not charge interest on loans sought by Minnesota public schools forced to borrow as a result of the shutdown, a letter dated June 15 shows.

SEIU Local 284 President Carol Nieters sent a letter, cosigned with other groups, to Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, telling officials, “You must know these schools can’t afford to pay your profits.”

“When our nation’s banks were in trouble it was working families who bailed them out,” Nieters wrote. “Now we need you to do the right thing and live up to your place as leaders in our financial community.”

On July 11, Nieters and the SEIU received a response from Wells Fargo Minnesota CEO Jon Campbell, which neither accepted nor denied the proposal. Instead, Campbell recognized Wells Fargo’s involvement in local communities and explained the bank’s political interests.

“With regard to your statement that organizations to which we belong support the Republican Budget, please note that Wells Fargo belongs to a number of trade groups across Minnesota, and we are members in order to further our interests and values as a financial institution,” Campbell said.

SEIU considers Wells Fargo’s letter “a non-response.” U.S. Bank never responded to the request.

Last week, the same SEIU chapter sent a similar letter to the banks, citing evidence that school districts will be forced to borrow. Brian Elliott, the executive director of the SEIU Minnesota State Council, said, as of July 22, neither bank had responded.

A number of Republicans on the education finance committee did not return the Minnesota Independent’s calls seeking comment, but at least one legislator said he thinks the union’s proposal “has merit.” Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) said some banks would look upon the proposal and see it as their civic duties to help schools. Others, he said, will not.

“It comes down to a business decision. It comes down to the best interest of public and the best interest of the community,” said Anzelc, a member of the House Education Finance committee. “Once communities lose public schools, small communities in rural Minnesota tend to die. It’s to everyone’s advantage to have a sound community public school system. The Republican approach, I would argue, is not a philosophy that is in support of a system of public education. I think one could argue that this is yet another step in privatizing education. This yet another Republican approach to throwing in the towel on public schools.”

Might some organization — possibly one that has connections to the state’s public schools — files a lawsuit against the budget legislation?

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Anzelc said.

Read SEIU’s letter:

Dear Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank:

Minnesota is on the verge of a government shutdown and many of our schools will turn to you for short term financing to help pay their bills.

You must know these schools can’t afford to pay your profits.

That’s why today we’re calling on you to commit that your banks will not charge interest on loans sought by schools during a government shutdown.

When our nation’s banks were in trouble it was working families who bailed them out. Now we need you to do the right thing and live up to your place as leaders in our financial community.

Sincerely,

Carol Nieters, SEIU Local 284

SEIU Local 26
ISAIAH
MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota
TakeAction Minnesota
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha
Minnesotans for a Fair Economy

Read the response letter:

WellsFargoResponse20110711