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Employees protest at Santander Bank’s Boston headquarters

Santander Bank workers protest in a movement Monday to stop immoral banking and bring justice to the worker’s union. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY CAROLYN KOMATSOULIS/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF.

Protesting employees shut down Santander Bank’s Boston headquarters Monday morning, according to a press release issued Monday by the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of bank workers that advocates for better work conditions in their industry.

Santander Bank has recently come under fire for predatory lending practices, according to the release. Last week, the Federal Reserve System took action against Santander’s auto-lending unit for ethical violations.

Juan Rojas, a teller at Santander Bank in New York City, said in the release he still makes less than $13 per hour despite working at the company for over three years.

“Whenever I ask my manager about why we make so little at one of the world’s most profitable companies, he just tells me I have to sell more if I want to make more,” Rojas said. “Since I won’t push products on customers that don’t meet their financial needs, I know that my best hope for real change comes from joining my coworkers and demanding a union.”

Gillian Mason, a organizer for Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, one of the organizations supporting the Committee for Better Banks, said protests like these are necessary for enacting lasting change.

“Unions and organizations provide structures and support for people who want to be whistleblowers,” Mason said. “Banks need to be held accountable for workers and the communities they serve. It’s all about people having a voice.”

Mason said the protests are powerful because they are not just about workers.

“[The protests are] about all of us,” Mason said. “Within the context of the Trump administration, we need oversight in banks now more than ever. Gutting the Consumer [Financial] Protection Bureau [is] on [Trump’s] list. The C[F]PB is all that stands between us and complete lawlessness with the banks.”

Several Boston residents said Santander’s workers are within their rights to protest the company that employs them.

Ashley Cortes, 18, of Back Bay, said these types of demonstrations help to educate the public — young people in particular — about important issues like bank regulations.

“There should be more information for younger people,” Cortes said. “There’s not enough education either, so bank policy can be very confusing for young people. Plus, we are always surrounded by different views so it can be hard to know what’s going on. Education would help people be more aware of these policies.”

Kathleen Vande Wille, 25, of Brighton, said she stands by the Santander workers’ decision to protest and she believes all banks can stand to be more transparent with their employees and customers.

“I think that their workers should have the right to unionize if they want, because I think any industry should have the right to unionize,” Vande Wille said. “If that’s what they want and if their workers will benefit from that, I think that you should give workers the chance to do that.”

Maria Henao, 59, of Chinatown, said she believes large companies should place more emphasis on the well-being of their employees.

“The workers can get together to do what’s right,” Henao said. “If employers don’t have good policies and standards, then employees deserve to be protected from that.”

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