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Ask Your CEO for a Raise for 300,000 Co-Workers (& Other Ways to End up at the Bottom of the Sea)
October 13, 2014 | 11 Comments

In case you missed it, here’s a fun little story for you. Wells Fargo (a massive top 4 bank headquartered in San Francisco) made the news last week, with a rather intriguing story.

One of its workers, Tyrel Oates, sent an email to his CEO, John Stumpf. Now, emailing your CEO (while ballsy) doesn’t get you in the news alone. Emailing your CEO a request for a $4.71 per hour ($10,000 per year) raise for the entire company after rounding up most of the email distribution lists and cc blasting 200,000 of your co-workers? That’ll do it.

Here’s what makes the story even more newsworthy (I did some digging on these):

  • Wells Fargo made $32.62 billion in operating income last year, on $83.78 billion in revenue.
  • John Stumpf earned $19.3 million in total compensation last year, which is 473 times more than the salary of a median Wells Fargo employee ($48,317).
  • Tyrel Oates makes $15 per hour, or $31,200 per year. This is 1/618th the income of his CEO.
  • If honored, the cost of this proposition would be ~$3 billion per year, or about 9.4% of last year’s operating income.

Here is the email (originally printed and re-typed by a co-worker and posted to Reddit) in full, with my comments worked in along the way (in bold):

Mr. Stumpf,

With the increasing focus on income inequality in the United States. Wells Fargo has an opportunity to be at the forefront of helping to reduce this by setting the bar, leading by example, and showing the other large corporations that it is very possible to maintain a profitable company that not only looks out for its consumers and shareholders, but its employees as well (Do not assume that just because he/she may be human, that your CEO has a heart. If they ever ask “why do humans cry?”, then run).

This year Wells Fargo in its second quarter alone had a net income of $5.7 billion, and total revenue of $21.1 billion. These are very impressive numbers, and is obvious evidence that Wells Fargo is one of, if not the most profitable company in the nation right now (Homework: Wells Fargo was the 5th highest profit company in the US last year). So, why not take some of this and distribute it to the rest of the employees (Why do pigs fly?).

Sure, the company provides while not great, some pretty good benefits, as well as discretionary profit sharing for those who partake in our 401k program (Wells Fargo will 401K match your contributions “dollar for dollar up to 6% of your eligible pay on a quarterly basis, after 1 year of service. Additionally, Wells Fargo may – at its discretion – make a profit sharing contribution to your 401K account up to 4% of your annual eligible pay based on company performance.”). While the benefits are nice, the profit sharing through the 401k only goes to make the company itself and its shareholders more profitable (actually, I’m not sure how giving away profit makes the company and its shareholders more profitable), and not really boost the income of the thousands of us here every day making this company the prestigious power house that it is.

Last year, you had pulled in over $19 million, more than most of the employees will see in our lifetimes (Most? How about ALL!). It is understood that your position carries a lot of weight and responsibility; however, with a base salary of $2.8 million and bonuses equating to $4 million, is alone one of the main arguments of income inequality. Where the vast majority, the undeniable profit drivers (good phrase), with the exception of upper management positions barely make enough to live comfortably on their own, the distribution of income in this company is no better than that of the other big players in the corporate world. (Hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t get much more “corporate” than a top 4 bank)

My estimate is that Wells Fargo has roughly around 300,000 employees. My proposal is take $3 billion dollars, just a small fraction of what Wells Fargo pulls in annually, and raise every employees annual salary by $10,000 dollars. This equates to an hourly raise about $4.71 per hour. Think, as well, of the positive publicity (I think Mr. Oates may be overestimating corporate America’s appreciation for positive publicity a smidgeon here.) in a time of extreme consumer skepticism towards banks. By doing this, Wells Fargo will not only help to make its people, its family, more happy, productive, and financially stable, it will also show the rest of the United States, if not the world that, yes big corporations can have a heart other than philanthropic endeavors (Corporations do not have hearts, however, they do have PR).

P.S. – To all of my fellow team members who receive a copy of this email. Though Wells Fargo does not allow the formation of unions (This is an unfortunate misunderstanding. Wells Fargo may and probably does “discourage” the formation of unions with anti-union propaganda, but it is against the U.S. Labor Relations Act to forbid unionization), this does not mean we cannot stand united. Each and every one of us plays an integral part in the success of this company. It is time that we ask, no, it is time that we demand to be rightfully compensated for the hard work that we accomplish, and for the great part we all have played in the success of this company. There are many of us out there who come to work every day and give it our all, yet, we struggle to make ends meet while our peers in upper management and company executives reap the majority of the rewards. One of our lowest scored TMCS questions is that our opinions matter. Well they do! This email has been sent to hundreds of thousands Wells Fargo employees, (as many as I could cc from the outlook global address book). And while the voice of one person in a world as large as ours may seem only like a whisper, the combined voices of each and all of us can move mountains!

With the warmest of regards,

Oatesy

Stumpf has yet to respond.

Perhaps what is most interesting about this story is that Mr. Oates has retained his job (at least thus far). However, he’s about to be avoided like he has ebola. I would be curious to see a follow-up story 6 months from now on what happened to the guy. Maybe he’ll be “swimmin’ with the fishes”, or “taking a long walk on a short pier”, or “<insert your favorite mafia veiled threat in the comments>”…

Here are some of my thoughts on the Wells Fargo Raise Email:

The brazenness in CEO income never gets easier to swallow. A CEO should, undoubtedly, make more than a median employee. Any type of position with that much stress and responsibility is enough to make you jump off a roof (no matter how much you make) and you should be well compensated for it. What is equitable in a company with this type of massive profit levels? 10-1? Absolutely. 25-1? Yep. 50-1? Probably. 100-1? You could convince me, if the performance justified it. 618-1? F no! Someone has to draw the line somewhere or stunts like this are going to become a whole lot more frequent – and they won’t end as peacefully.

wells fargo raise email

Man recently mistaken for Tyrel Oates

Executive compensation and gross income inequality should be talked about and brought to the spotlight more often. That’s why I’m highlighting this here and this news became pretty popular (that and the fact that Oates needs a push cart to move around his massive pelotas).

My bet? Mr. Oates was about to quit or get fired. You don’t write an email like this if you value your job. At $15 per hour, you don’t pull a stunt like this, with good reason, unless you have one foot out the door already or just fell in to a massive inheritance. Or, perhaps like the Goldman Sachs resignation letter guy, you are itchin’ for a book deal and want the publicity.

I appreciate and value a good “takin’ it to the man” story, however, I don’t think Mr. Oates was the right man to “take it”. His pay, where he works, and lack of raises make him a good candidate, but his homework was lazy, his knowledge about unions incorrect, and he didn’t even talk about employee retention or try to put a dollar value on the positive economic value of the proposal. If you’re going to boldly email your CEO and 200,000 co-workers you think you’d put a little more time and effort in to it than you would emailing an old friend. Just sayin’…

What do you guys think about executive compensation, Oates’ stunt, Stumpf’s silence, and corporations paying their employees more?

Also, where is “Hall” when you need him to proofread your emails for effect? (ahh… you like that)?

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