WASHINGTON - Several labor unions plan to close their accounts with Crestar Bank, and are encouraging members to do the same.
As the first step in their protest, union members braved bitter cold and snow to picket 34 Crestar Bank branches in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia over the weekend.
The unions are boycotting and protesting the $14.7 billion-asset Richmond, Va.-based bank because two of its board members work for a utility company that has locked out members of the International Union of Gas Workers, the Teamsters, and several other labor groups.
The Crestar boycott is expected to continue indefinitely, pending progress in the unions' talks with Washington Gas.
The gas workers are negotiating their contract with the utility, and have grown frustrated with the utility's "labor bashing" during talks, according to union president James Mort.
The union is targeting Crestar because Washington Gas CEO Patrick Maher and director Karen Hastie Williams are also members of the bank's board of directors.
Crestar spokesman Barry Koling said the bank should not be drawn into the conflict. "It's not our fight," Mr. Koling said. "We're not a party to this dispute."
Even so, the bank could lose more than $100 million in deposits. Arthur Busby, a spokesman for Teamsters Joint Council 55, said his group has up to $60 million in Crestar accounts. While the other groups did not provide exact totals, some estimated that they held similar amounts.
During a press conference last week, union representatives wore red "Corporate Thug Buster" buttons, and sat in front of posters attacking Mr. Maher.
Chief among the groups' complaints was the utility's insistence on hiring part-time workers, temporaries, and contract workers to fill openings, instead of union members.
"Make no mistake," Mr. Mort said, "Washington Gas is engaged in a direct effort to break the IUGW."