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Responding to Charlottesville

This afternoon I sent the following message to the Amalgamated Bank community:

The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville have at the same time saddened and angered us. They have forced many Americans to once again reflect on the issues that continue to divide us as a nation.

Photo of Keith Mestrich

President & CEO

Though it may be natural to become disheartened and forlorn over this regressive conflict in our society, now is the time to take a hard look at the things we have the most direct control of and make sure that they honor the truly American sense of inclusion and diversity. As one of the leading financial institutions that stands up for social justice, I want to make sure that we live up to our axiom of helping those who do good, do better. Amalgamated Bank is an organization based on inclusivity and equal access. In our internal deliberations, we embrace the viewpoints of all employees and recognize that the diversity of opinions and experiences helps us make better decisions and fosters deeper understanding. We have long valued an expansive banking model that extends basic financial services to all people, regardless of race, natural origin or class. We bolster the work of our customers who every day stand up for civil rights, women’s rights and human rights.

That is the bank we are today and the bank we have always been. I am proud of that, but after watching the events in Charlottesville, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves if we are doing everything we can to be leaders espousing inclusion rather than hatred and division.

Earlier today, I asked that we ensure that we are not doing any business with any groups that represent the kind of hatred and rancor we saw in the streets of Charlottesville. If we are, which is extremely unlikely given our rigorous background checks and security protocols, we will end those relationships immediately. I also am sending a letter to the CEO of Mastercard, our debit card vendor, encouraging them to meet with our client Color of Change.org who is leading the charge to make sure that the nation’s interchange providers cease providing the infrastructure to help groups like the KKK and neo-Nazi hate groups raise money online.

Those are immediate things we can do and I welcome all suggestions on other steps we might take.

But most importantly, we can make sure that every day we foster and celebrate a corporate culture that celebrates our differences and creates an environment where everyone feels welcome and not threatened, where people learn from our differences and grow stronger because of them. That’s the place where I want to come to work every day. That’s the place where I want to bank. I hope you all do too.