In this interview, Laura talks to former union organizer and current CEO of Amalgamated Bank Keith Mestrich about the bank's union history, its progressive principles, and reforming the financial industry from the inside.
Laura Flanders: Often on this program we talk about evil big banks. Break up the big banks we say, embrace credit unions. Well, I'm not changing any of that but we are going to talk to somebody who's in charge of a big bank right now, it's the Amalgamated Bank but it's a little different and it's using its power in the banking world to make some progressive change. The CEO of the Amalgamated Bank for the last couple of year is our guest Keith Mestrich. Welcome to the program Keith. Glad to have you.
Keith Mestrich: Thanks, Laura, nice to be here.
Laura Flanders: Amalgamated, tell us its history. Founded in the 20s?
Keith Mestrich: It's a fascinating history, founded in 1923 by a visionary thinker named Sidney Hillman and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in New York City. Founded when banking was really the purview of the rich, much like it is today.
Laura Flanders: Why was it founded?
Keith Mestrich: It was founded really to be able to give immigrant garment workers, a million of them in New York City at the time, a place where they could actually conduct financial transactions. At that time a lot of banks charged working people to keep their money in the bank, we offered the first free savings accounts, and the bank really invented the first system of form remittances so that garment workers, who were here to find a better life, could bring their families back over here from abroad.