A bank president stood beside the head of a big teachers unions at a glitzy Clinton Global Initiative event last month and the two pledged to invest $100 million in early childhood education. A few weeks earlier, the union had endorsed Hillary Clinton because she had come out in support of that same issue. The union, the American Federation of Teachers, also happens to be a client of the bank.
The Amalgamated Bank is union owned and has extensive ties to the Democratic establishment. It is a growing financial phenomenon managed and patronized by Big Labor's biggest players. From the Democratic National Committee to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Amalgamated has attracted high-profile accounts with its blend of specialized political financing and ideological bent.
The bank has positioned itself as an innovator in the new niche of political investment banking, offering cash on short notice to political action committees and campaigns, while providing round-the-clock service to political groups that operate outside traditional banking hours.
It has also become an unconventional vehicle for unions in the corporate world. It's home to billions of dollars in union pension funds, which it invests strategically in across a broad portfolio of companies. Essentially, Amalgamated gives the labor movement a seat at the corporate governance table and thus an influential voice in how big businesses operate.
Since its founding in 1923 by a New York City garment workers' union, Amalgamated's evolution has mirrored that of the labor movement as a whole. Just as well-connected national unions have overshadowed local ones, so too has the bank's target market shifted to Washington power players.