“Stop playing Monopoly with our lives,” protesters tell bank


Demonstrators showered the lobby of the Wells Fargo Center with Monopoly play money Tuesday to protest the bank’s failure to help tens of thousands of Minnesotans facing foreclosure—and management’s refusal to support a fair contract for janitors who clean the bank. View video

Tuesday’s action, in which workers and students briefly took over the lobby of the Wells Fargo Center, followed last week’s protest in St. Paul where demonstrators disrupted a meeting of the Minnesota Bankers Association.

“My family and I lost our home on Feb. 5 after making five years of payments to Wells Fargo,” said Armando Diaz, a janitor at Normandale Lake Office Park. “I tried to work something out with Wells Fargo because I couldn’t afford the mortgage, even with two jobs. Last year when Wells Fargo needed help, they got a $25 billion bailout, but when I asked for help, they said ‘no.'”

Wells Fargo rejects home purchase applicants of color more often than white applicants, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. Wells Fargo has denied African-Americans a purchase loan three times more than whites. Latinos at Wells Fargo were almost twice as likely as whites to be rejected for purchase and refinance loans.

The bank under-serves low and moderate income neighborhoods, making less than 2% of their FHA purchase loans and less than 3% of their conventional loans to persons from low income neighborhoods, and 12% of its conventional purchase loans and 15% of its FHA purchase loans to persons from moderate income neighborhoods, the protesters said.

“It’s outrageous to me that after taking billions of our tax dollars in bailout money, the big banks are still foreclosing on people’s homes instead of keeping mortgages affordable and keeping their customers,” said Rosalina Gavilan Gomez, a janitor at US Bancorp in Minneapolis who is about to lose her home to foreclosure.

Twin Cities’ janitors, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 26, clean buildings owned by Fortune 500 companies such as US Bancorp, Medtronic, and Wells Fargo. Full-time janitors earn as little as $20,200 a year, before taxes.

Janitors at ABM and Harvard have voted to authorize a strike over unfair labor practices and could walk off the job at any time. They have been bargaining for months with their employers, and they have been working without a contract since Jan. 8.

Janitors at Marsden Building Maintenance on Tuesday removed their strike authorization and will continue to work towards a peaceful settlement of a new contract, the union said.

The two sides have agreed to a renewed commitment on industry-leading green and sustainable initiatives, and a clear process that, when buildings choose to transition to day shift cleaning, will make such transitions seamless and successful, union negotiators said. In addition, the janitors and Marsden have agreed to a gradual transition towards 8-hour full-time jobs and have made major strides to bring predictability and stability to the cleaning industry for janitors, buildings, and clients alike, the union said.