The American Federation of Teachers on Thursday dropped Wells Fargo from a list of recommended mortgage providers for its 1.7 million union members over the bank’s ties to gun makers and the National Rifle Association (NRA). More than 20,000 AFT members currently hold mortgages through the bank.
The break comes after Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan failed to follow through on a meeting with AFT president Randi Weingarten that he suggested to discuss the bank’s relationship with the National Rifle Association and then, according to Weingarten, never followed through.
Weingarten in a letter to Sloan says the union tried several times by phone and email to set up the meeting, but the bank’s response has been “radio silence.” Andrew Ujifusa provides more background on how the AFT has taken Wells Fargo to task in recent weeks for giving loans to gun makers and doing business with the NRA.
In her letter to Sloan, Weingarten said that ever since the AFT expressed its concerns with Wells Fargo, the National Rifle Association has attacked the union “in the vilest ways.” The video below shows how the NRA has responded to the union’s announcement to cut ties with the bank. In it, host Grant Stinchfield blasts Randi Weingarten and the AFT as “one of the greatest threats to our children.”
Randi Weingarten & @AFTunion are one of the greatest threats to our children especially in our inner cities & impoverished rural areas. The policies @rweingarten & her AFT viciously fight for create conditions of violence our children our forced to live in" @stinchfield1776 #NRA pic.twitter.com/b3OrhzTlTP — NRATV (@NRATV) April 10, 2018
“We can only assume that in light of your silence and the NRA attacks, you have decided that the NRA business is more valuable to you than students and their educators are,” Weingarten writes in the letter.
Still, teachers are not free of ties to the gun industry. As Bloomberg reports, teacher pension funds in at least 12 states are invested in gun stocks. AFT on Wednesday issued a report urging its pension fund managers to consider dropping investments in gun makers and sellers. But some of the biggest teacher pension managers, New York and California included, still invest in Wells Fargo stocks.
In a statement to Education Week, the San Francisco-based bank responded, “Wells Fargo wants schools and communities to be safe from gun violence, but changes to laws and regulations should be determined through a legislative process that gives the American public an opportunity to participate. We remain firm in our belief that the American public does not want banks to decide which legal products consumers can and cannot buy.”
Banks including Bank of America and several corporations are reexamining their relationship with the National Rifle Association, and some have even cut ties with the organization in the wake of calls for stricter gun control.
But Weingarten contends that CEO Sloan won’t even talk about solutions, never mind take action. “So if Wells Fargo won’t value children and teachers above guns, we won’t do business with Wells Fargo,” Weingarten said. “It can be the bank for America’s teachers, or it can be the bank for the NRA and gun manufacturers. But, given the NRA’s refusal to even help mitigate gun violence, Wells Fargo can’t be both.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.