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CHARLYCE BOZZELLO: Congress Ignores Union Hypocrisy While Harassing The Starbucks CEO

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Charlyce Bozzello Charlyce Bozzello is the communications director at the Center for Union Facts, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to transparency and accountability in today’s labor movement.
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Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is set to testify Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions regarding Starbucks’ alleged anti-union activity. Committee members would be wise to shift their focus across the battle lines, to the group pushing to organize Starbucks workers nationwide.

An affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, Workers United is pitching itself to young, progressive baristas as a socially responsible labor organization. It’s also the leading shareholder of Amalgamated Bank, the largest union-owned bank in the country. The current president of Workers United, Lynne Fox, was made chair of the bank in 2016 and served as interim CEO from 2020 to 2021. Edgar Romney, Sr. and Julie Bracero Kelly – key executives at Workers United – serve on the Amalgamated Financial Board.

Amalgamated Bank and Workers United have stated the two are “aligned and united through shared values.” The Bank’s CEO describes Amalgamated as “a socially responsible bank” saying, “we simply do not take public positions and we do not invest in things that we think are harmful.”

The Bank’s investments tell a different story. Amalgamated reports investments to the US Securities and Exchange Commission that include fossil fuel companies, private prisons, and even tear gas and gun manufacturers—precisely the types of industries young workers might define as “harmful.” (RELATED: JASON ISAAC: Joe Biden’s Energy Policies Are A Train Wreck — Literally)

The bank has gone so far as to claim that “none” of its money goes to fund the “oil and gas or coal industries.” That may be true for its own money: Yet, investments reported to the SEC show $700 million invested in fossil fuel-based companies, including Chevron, Marathon Petroleum Corp, and ConocoPhillips.

In 2020, Amalgamated Bank issued a press release criticizing banks that had “invested nearly $2 trillion in fossil fuels” since the Paris Climate Accords in 2015. Amalgamated even used it as a pitch, telling potential customers to “switch your bank to one that is explicitly aligned with your values.”

But it turns out, Amalgamated increased SEC-reported investments in fossil fuels during this time, to the tune of over 500 thousand shares of ExxonMobil stock.

The group’s hypocrisy doesn’t just end with fossil fuels. Amalgamated Bank CEO Pricilla Sims-Brown said she was “very concerned” about the growth of the private prison industry. Yet, her bank reported to the SEC one hundred thousand plus shares of private prison stock, with sole investment discretion. These investments are primarily in two companies – GEO Group and CoreCivic – which hold a substantial number of immigrants awaiting deportation. Both have also been accused of profiting off of family separation and detention.

Sects of Workers United have also pushed to remove police unions from its labor federations, citing systemic racism in the criminal justice system. This did not stop the union bank from continuing to report SEC investments in a company that allegedly supplied the tear gas used against protesters in Ferguson, MO.

Then there’s the former bank CEO who was quoted in 2018 saying the bank did not “maintain banking relationships with businesses involved in gun sales.” A look at the bank’s SEC-reported investments as of December, 2022 reveal shares of two of the largest gun manufacturers in the U.S., Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger.

Union members, supporters, and even the general public might be surprised to learn the truth about Amalgamated. They deserve an explanation. Instead of haranguing a former CEO, the HELP Committee should aim to reveal the true colors of the labor union that claims to align with workers’ values.

Charlyce Bozzello is the communications director at the Center for Union Facts, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to transparency and accountability in today’s labor movement.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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