JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is on a mission to improve his company’s image. Just this past week, he reportedly met with Warren Buffet in a secret attempt to improve their corporate image. Earlier this month, tellers and other bank workers learned that they would be getting a raise from a New York Times op-ed, where Dimon very publicly announced that the financial giant would raise pay for 18,000 Chase employees to between $12 and $16.50 over the next three years.
But Dimon is no hero for working people. The pay hike is a victory for thousands of frontline bank workers who have been standing together for years with organizations like the Committee for Better Banks to put pressure on banks like Chase and fight for fair pay. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Dimon forgot to mention in his op-ed that he received a raise this past January himself, which looks very different than the one given to front line bank workers. JPMorgan Chase’s board raised Dimon’s salary from $20 million to $27 million.That’s a 35 percent increase in just one year!
Dimon makes roughly $13,000 an hour. In three hours, he earns the same salary as a full-time Chase employee making $15 an hour. Raising wages for bank workers is the right thing to do, but a miniscule raise—estimated by the Economic Policy Institute at just 3.2 percent annually when adjusted for inflation over the next three years—doesn’t go nearly far enough toward addressing income inequality or the hostile work conditions for frontline bank workers.
I know this from personal experience. From 2010 to 2012, I worked as a personal banker at Chase in my city of Fort Worth, Texas. I was paid just $12 an hour, which wasn’t enough to feed my children in 2010 and definitely wouldn’t be enough now. It was a struggle to make rent, and I couldn’t even afford to repair the car I used to drive to work.
Many of my co-workers—who also worked as tellers—were paid even less. I knew some of them who had to rely on public assistance to put a roof over their heads and feed their children.
To make a little extra money through incentive pay, many of us were pressured to meet unreasonable sales goals every week. I was required to open new accounts, sell credit cards and other services, make referrals to financial analysts and convince customers to get new loans – whether they could afford it or not. Our job performance and job security often depended on how many credit cards we sold and how many banking ‘solutions’ we pushed onto unsuspecting consumers.
I enjoyed helping people with their finances—but Chase’s system of compensation forced us to face the impossible choice of pushing unnecessary financial products on customers just to earn a living wage and keep our jobs. And it’s not just Chase that engages in these predatory practices: a recent report, for example, found that in the past six years, consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau concerning retail banking have risen—in the past year alone complaints increased by 34 percent. Low pay and unreasonable sales goals eventually forced me to seek another job.
But I’m never going to stop fighting for fair wages in the banking industry, because I know from experience how low pay and unreasonable sales goals hurt customers and workers alike.
The average bank CEO takes home roughly 470 times a frontline banker’s salary each year. JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in America—in the last year, they made $24 billion in profits. So at the very least, Chase’s frontline workers should be able to pay their rent, send their kids to college, buy a home and put money in savings.
If Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase really want to address inequality, they have a great opportunity to do so. They can become a leader in the banking industry by implementing fair banking practices and paying their workers enough to support their families. But a $3/hr raise at one bank just doesn’t cut it.