Business

Labor union protests BofA

Bank of America's gargantuan size has caught the attention of a national labor union that's worried about the impact of the bank's fees and layoffs on the working class.

The Service Employees International Union launched a Web site last week -- www.bankofamericabadforamerica.org -- and on Monday handed out leaflets in Charlotte and other cities. The fliers, bearing the face of chief executive Ken Lewis, targeted a recent increase in ATM fees and planned layoffs in Chicago as part of the bank's pending LaSalle Bank acquisition.

The union, which represents a small number of people who work with LaSalle subcontractors, has targeted the bank largely because of its major role in an economy that officials say increasingly favors the wealthy over the working class, said Stephen Lerner, assistant to the president with SEIU.

"They are so enormous that everything they do has an outsized affect on the country," said Lerner, whose union represents about 1.9 million hospital workers, public employees, building workers and others. "The question is, how are they accountable for their impact on the country as a whole."

A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment.

The union is part of a coalition of community groups and religious leaders in Chicago that last week protested expected job losses from the LaSalle deal, which is expected to receive final Federal Reserve Board approval soon. The SEIU also has launched a Web site that questions the impact of the recent buyout binge -- www.behindthebuyouts.org.

Several protesters handed fliers to lunchtime walkers Monday at Trade and Tryon streets. Others distributed leaflets in Chicago, Boston and New York.

The protest comes at a time when Bank of America, the nation's largest consumer bank and credit card issuer, has gained renewed attention for its importance in the financial world. The bank last week invested $2 billion in struggling mortgage lender Countrywide Financial and joined other big banks in making a withdrawal from the Federal Reserve to help buoy turbulent credit markets.

Lerner said the union will continue to raise questions about the bank and the economy as a whole as it looks to represent its membership.

"We're trying to take the debate out of the board room and into the living room," he said.

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