In a July 12 New York Times Op-Ed piece, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon held up the financial giant’s decision to raise the pay of thousands of Chase workers as an example of how and why businesses should address the wage stagnation and lack of access to quality education and services millions of Americans increasingly face. Over the next three years, JPMorgan Chase will raise the minimum pay for 18,000 employees to between $12 and $16.50 an hour for full-time, part-time and new employees, “depending on geographic and market factors.”
JPMorgan Chase is extremely profitable. Chase made $24 billion and paid Dimon $27 million last year alone. Grassroots Collaborative and other organizations across the country have been loudly urging more corporate responsibility for years. A large Wall Street financial institution like Chase recognizing the need to pay their employees fair compensation is a step forward. But we can not laud this progress if at the same time Chase is also putting Chicago State University at risk of closing, taking away childcare assistance from working parents, and draining resources from Black and Brown communities by continuing to squeeze the state through toxic interest rate swap deals.
Chase previously made a predatory public financing deal with the State of Illinois of a type that’s become commonly known as a toxic swap. In 2015 alone Chase bank made off with $13 million of an estimated $68 million paid on these deals in fees. JPMorgan Chase is also the largest provider of letters of credit (similar to cosigning a loan) for Illinois toxic swap deals. Right now Governor Rauner is preparing to write another fat, multi-million dollar paycheck to the order of JP Morgan Chase and to other banks, while the children and seniors of Illinois are losing essential services as a result of the state’s budget disaster.
Chase bank can help bring essential services to our state’s most vulnerable by choosing to stand with the taxpayers of Illinois and renew our letters of credit to avoid this payout. Governor Rauner has until November to make the decision to either pay out $870 million dollars to banks like JP Morgan Chase, or work with them to renew their letters of credit on these bank deals. If Governor Rauner does not renew these letters of credit before November 27, Illinois could be on the hook for almost a billion dollars.
Bank tellers and customer service representatives deserve a living wage. Children and seniors deserve fully funded public services. JPMorgan Chase shouldn’t get credit for one while sabotaging the other.