November 21, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Three months before Governor Andrew Cuomo took steps to establish a statewide $15 an hour minimum wage, Amalgamated Bank took the unprecedented action to raise the wages of its lowest earning employees to $15 an hour. But unlike the governor’s plan to phase in the vital pay raise over a half dozen years — Amalgamated Bank instituted its new minimum wage policy immediately, while also urging others in the industry to follow suit.
On December 10, The Workmen’s Circle, the more than 100-year-old advocacy group founded in New York City by Jewish emigres, will honor Amalgamated Bank and its President & CEO Keith Mestrich during the organization’s annual Winter Reception at the Helen Mills Event Space & Theater on West 26th Street.
Like The Workmen’s Circle, Amalgamated Bank's history stretches all the way back to beginnings of the last century. Started in 1924, Amalgamated Bank became New York City’s first labor bank, serving the needs of hard-pressed working men and women.
Through the Fight for $15 movement, the two entities have once again be given the opportuity to stand at the forefront of worker advocacy.
“This event is a great opportunity for us to celebrate a relationship and an alliance that goes back over 100 years, starting with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union,” says Ellen P Goldstein, director of development, The Workmen’s Circle. “What Keith and the bank have done in stepping up with regard to the Fight for $15 movement is only the most recent expression of their leadership…and the most recent opportunity for the Workmen's Circle and the Bank to stand shoulder to shoulder on a critical issue.”
For Ann Toback, The Workmen’s Circle’s executive director, Amalgamated Bank’s decision to establish an immediate $15 minimum wage for its employees demonstrates the financial institution’s profound desire to put its progressive values into action.
“It’s so exciting to see a bank making headlines for doing good,” she says. “We really wanted to celebrate the work they’re doing.”
As heartening as it was for labor advocates to see Amalgamated Bank establish a $15 minimum wage for its own employees, the bank has gone on to show that it is deeply invested in the welfare of all workers. In October, the bank butted heads with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority after the MTA forced the removal of Amalgamated Bank’s #raisethewage posters from the subway system.
The posters may have ultimately been scrapped, but they were far from the only way Mestrich and Amalgamated Bank are continuing to build on a tradition of worker advocacy.
“I don’t know who will follow,” Mestrich says. “But our bank will be profitable this year — and that’s a good way to be an example.”
The Workmen’s Circle’s Winter Reception honoring Keith Mestrich and Amalgamated Bank will be held on December 10, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., inside the Helen Mills Event Space & Theater located at 137-139 West 26th Street.
Tickets are $180/person. Sponsorship and virtual journal opportunities are available. To find out more, write to email@example.com or call 646.291.8367. RSVP by December 4.