The story initially broke when the full email was posted to Reddit, and later confirmed by The Oregonian, via an interview with Oates.
Oates argued that as the company has skyrocketed in profits over the past few years, those profits should be shared as the average employee still makes less than a living wage. In 2013, Wells Fargo reportedly earned $21.9 billion, a 16 percent profit increase from 2012. CEO John Stumpf, a 31-year-veteran of Wells Fargo, was awarded with an 8 percent pay increase, to $19 million. Oates started working at Wells Fargo on a wage of $13 an hour, and now seven years later makes $15 an hour, and said he hasn't been able to keep up with living expenses.
Oates laid out his poignant argument in great detail in the email, claiming that such a raise for every employee would roughly equate to an hourly wage increase of $4.71 and cost roughly $3 billion.
The full email, with Oates' name redacted, as it was posted to Reddit:
- 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.
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. So, why not take some of this and distribute it to the rest of the employees.
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. While the benefits are nice, the profit sharing through the 401k only goes to make the company itself 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. 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, 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.
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 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.
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 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,
"It wasn't about me so much as all of my co-workers," Oates told The Oregonian. "I love the whole company but seeing our CEO pull in so much money, even the bank pull in so much money, our fellow employees don't even see cost of living raises."
Oates told Business Insider that he felt he and his fellow employees were underpaid because salaries are based more on what competitor's pay for the position, and not the revenue it generates.
"Companies try to say they offer competitive salaries, but this is only because they understand that since Company A pays this much for a job that Companies B and C only need to pay as much as well. The vast majority of Americans are underpaid in relation to the income their companies bring in, profits skyrocket, while wages and salaries remain stagnant," Oates told Business Insider.
Oates has said that he is not worried about losing his job, and that coworker response has been overwhelmingly positive, supporting his actions and ideas, with only two negative replies.
Wells Fargo said they could not discuss personnel matters, but did share the following statement with ABC:
"Wells Fargo values and supports its team members. This is why we provide market competitive compensation that combines base pay with a broad array of benefits and career-development opportunities for team members. Team members receive an annual performance and salary review. And all of our team members' compensation levels exceed the federal minimum."