New York, NY—Hot on the heels of a $15 minimum wage victory for New York’s fast-food workers, a new report from the National Employment Law Project looks at the wages of our nation’s bank tellers and other bank workers—and finds a potential new front in the fight for $15.
Bank tellers constitute the largest banking-related occupation in the United States, with almost half a million workers nationwide. Three in four (74.1 percent) earn less than $15 an hour, compared with 42.4 percent of the total U.S. workforce, according to NELP’s report. Tellers’ median hourly wage is just $12.44. The workforce is overwhelmingly female: more than five in six bank tellers are women.
“Many people hear about bank profits and lavish CEO compensation and assume that all jobs in banking pay well. But the reality is far different for bank tellers: Though they handle other people’s money all day, many tellers struggle to survive on wages too low to sustain families,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “In New York, the families of nearly 4 in 10 bank tellers must rely on some form of public assistance to get by; nationally, almost one in three do so.”
Bank tellers have seen the real value of their paychecks diminish over time as the cost of living has increased. According to NELP’s report, real wages for bank tellers have declined 3.4 percent between 2009 and 2014.
Over the past two years, the campaign for a $15 minimum wage has focused attention on the plight of low-paid workers in fast food, home care, retail, and food service. A growing number of cities around the country, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, have adopted minimum wage rates that will gradually reach $15.
On the state level, New York will become the first state to adopt a $15 minimum wage for workers across an entire industry (i.e., fast food). And in the private sector, employers such as the insurance company Aetna also are establishing minimum wage rates of at least $15.
A full-time bank teller earns on average around $25,800 per year, whereas full compensation packages for bank executives can run in the tens of millions.
“A $15 minimum wage for bank workers would be an important first step to raise wages broadly within the sector, and it would begin to reduce the gross disparity between frontline-worker pay and executive compensation,” said Owens. “Banking leaders can and should take steps to turn these low-paying banking jobs into good, family-sustaining, middle-class jobs.”
Download the report: A $15 Minimum Wage for Bank Workers