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Time to Fire Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Greg Sargent has the news. SEIU calls for Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis to be fired.

SEIU To Call For Firing Of Bank Of America CEO Ken Lewis

The labor powerhouse Service Employees International Union will become the first union to call on Bank of America to fire embattled CEO Ken Lewis later this morning, union officials tell me.

What makes this move interesting and unusual is that the SEIU call for Lewis’ ouster isn’t part of any campaign to organize Bank of America’s workers. Instead, it’s the first shot in a broader public relations strategy that the big unions are devising to push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a top labor priority.

The idea is to capitalize on the crisis-driven public relations woes suffered by major corporations as a kind of pre-emptive P.R. strike against what is expected to be an intense and well-funded effort by major corporations to defeat Employee Free Choice.

Lewis, who’s facing multiple calls to step down amid the public bailout of the company and charges he destroyed the Bank’s shareholder value, has become a high-profile symbol of corporate greed, excess, and ineptitude at a time when the financial crisis has ordinary workers struggling — symbolism that SEIU hopes to use to stoke populist anger in advance of the EFCA fight.

“Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis just doesn’t get it. The era of greed and irresponsibility is over,” SEIU will say in an email that will be blasted to members later this morning that was sent to me by officials. “Enough is enough. Bank of America must fire CEO Ken Lewis.”

SEIU will push this message hard to the media this morning. You can read SEIU’s full email here.

SEIU hopes to capitalize on the well-known story about John Thain, the ex-CEO of Merrill Lynch, acquired by Bank of America, who spent $1.2 million renovating his office. (My old pals at Talking Points Memo have some good video of Thain trying to explain himself right here.)

“Bank of America tellers make about $24,000 a year,” the SEIU email says. “That’s less than what the CEO of a company bought by Bank of America paid for his curtains during the $1.2 million redecoration of his personal office.”

More on this story later today.

Update: Bank of America spokesperson Scott Silvestri tells me the company will have no comment on SEIU’s call for Lewis’ ouster.

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Michael Whitney

Michael Whitney

My name is Michael Whitney. I'm a progressive online organizer working with FDL Action. Rush Limbaugh called me "clueless" once. He went into rehab two days later.