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Bank of America plans to raise its minimum wage to $17 an hour next month. That will go up to $20 an hour by 2021. The bank's announcement comes as companies are having to pay more to compete for the best workers. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: These are plush times for the nation's biggest banks. Profits are healthy and getting healthier. Today, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan told MSNBC he wanted all of his bank's employees to share in its success, so the bank will be raising the minimum wage it pays.
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BRIAN MOYNIHAN: That wage is now about $16, $15.50, $16 an hour. We're going to move that over the next 24 months to $20 an hour. If you get a job at Bank of America, you'll make $41,000.
ZARROLI: The news was applauded by the Committee for Better Banks, which tries to organize bank employees, such as tellers. The committee says low-level employees like these saw their wages stagnate after the financial crisis. Bank tellers may dress like white collar workers, but a 2013 survey found that a third of them had to rely on public assistance, such as food stamps, to get by. But as the unemployment rate has fallen, banks have had more trouble finding workers, says Ben Zipperer of the Economic Policy Institute.
BEN ZIPPERER: Bank of America, like other companies - they're facing a tighter labor market. And what that means is that banks in particular are - they're compelled to raise wages to - somewhat to recruit staff.
ZARROLI: Zipperer says Bank of America may have been motivated by all the attention being paid right now to income inequality. Moynihan himself made $23 million in 2017, which was 250 times as much as the bank's median employee. That kind of income gap is proving to be more and more embarrassing for big companies. Zipperer says it's probably no coincidence that Bank of America's announcement came one day before tomorrow's big congressional hearing on holding big banks accountable. Moynihan is expected to appear alongside the heads of six other major banks, and the disparity in wages is almost certain to come up. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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