Wells Fargo employees at branches in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Bethel, Alaska, have filed for the bank’s first-ever union elections. This ground-breaking step towards formal recognition of the Communications Workers of America’s Wells Fargo Workers United (WFWU) signals a major shift in the banking industry, traditionally one of the least unionized sectors in the U.S. economy.

The CWA is a UNI Global Union affiliate.

The workers’ petition, filed with U.S. government’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), marks not only the first such effort at Wells Fargo but at any major U.S. bank in decades, underscoring the escalating demand among financial services workers for greater representation and reform.

“Wells Fargo workers in every state, division and department need a voice on the job for ourselves and our customers,” said Sabrina Perez, a Senior Premier Banker at Wells Fargo’s Albuquerque, NM branch. “We are joining together in a union in order to fight back against Wells Fargo’s toxic culture and move the bank towards a brighter future where workers and customers are treated with respect. While we are the first Wells Fargo workers to file for union elections, we will not be the last.”

The unionization drive comes in the wake of the 2016 fake account scandal, where Wells Fargo employees, particularly those affiliated with the Committee for Better Banks, played a crucial role in exposing the bank’s malpractices. Since then, worker support for organizing at the bank has grown, with over 1,000 workers signing the WFWU support pledge in just the last two weeks.

“We know that we deserve better, and so do our customers. While Wells Fargo rakes in billions of dollars each year off the backs of workers like me, I’m forced to work a second job just to make rent,” said Walker Sexton, a Personal Banker at the Bethel branch.

The unionization efforts at Wells Fargo have faced resistance, with the bank allegedly engaging in illegal practices to hinder union activities. This includes intimidation and retaliation against organizing workers, as included in a series of charges filed with the US government.

In response to these developments, Angelo Di Cristo, Head of UNI’s Finance sector, expressed solidarity with the Wells Fargo workers, stating, “Wells Fargo workers want what millions of banking employees around the world already have: a voice on the job and the protections of collective bargaining. UNI Finance unions from every corner of the globe stand with them in solidarity because their fight for fair wages and better conditions is our fight.”