A national teacher’s union ended a program directing members in need of mortgage loans to Wells Fargo because of the bank’s relationship with the National Rifle Association and gun makers.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten explained the partnership ended because Wells Fargo chief executive Tim Sloan failed to meet with union officials to address concerns about the bank’s ties to the gun industry.
“We’re ending this relationship because we have a responsibility to our members and their students, who face potential gun violence every day,” Weingarten said in a statement. “Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and in order to help stop it, we’ll stop the flow of resources to the companies that manufacture these weapons that have caused so much civilian carnage and death.”
The AFT published letters earlier this month Weingarten had exchanged with Sloan about the union’s concerns. Their communications resulted in agreeing to meet, but, as Weingarten explains, Sloan never followed through.
“We took him up on his offer to meet with us, then he went radio silent. So if Wells Fargo won’t value children and teachers above guns, we won’t do business with Wells Fargo,” she 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.”
The Wells Fargo mortgage program, part of the Union Privilege program, serviced approximately 1,600 AFT members annually, the group said. More than 20,000 AFT members currently hold mortgages through the program.
Wells Fargo has reportedly become the preferred financier for the U.S. firearm industry. The bank has helped two of the biggest publicly traded gun companies with $431.1 million in loans and bonds since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and has held a longterm relationship with the NRA by providing the gun lobby a $28 million credit line.
In response to Weingarten’s letter, Sloan declined to answer direct questions about customer relationships. He said the best way to address gun violence “is through the political and legislative process.”
Financial services and business relationships with the gun industry have gained intense scrutiny since February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 people. The incident spurred a student-led movement that’s had success pressuring businesses to implement gun control policies.
Major banks like Bank of America and Citigroup changed their policies for gun makers and sellers, and investment groups like BlackRock opted to sell investment products that eliminate exposure to gun-related businesses.