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Activists briefly occupy Santander headquarters in union campaign

Demonstrators also had protested outside Santander’s headquarters in February.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/File

About 50 bank workers, community leaders, and housing rights advocates from around the country briefly occupied Santander’s US headquarters on State Street in Boston Monday morning, causing security to lock down the bank branch for about 30 minutes until police arrived.

The protest followed a national meeting in Boston of bank workers associated with the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of community and labor groups organizing a union campaign for bank workers. The coalition recently issued a report outlining discrimination in Santanders’ mortgage lending practice; Santander has disputed the report’s accuracy.

Santander spokeswoman Ann Davis noted that the protest did not shut down corporate headquarters.


“We believe today’s activities are nothing more than another aspect of an ongoing campaign sponsored by the Communications Workers of America to unfairly and inappropriately discredit Santander,” she said in a statement, referring to the union working with the Committee for Better Banks. “As we’ve said many times before, Santander recognizes and respects the rights of its employees to unionize or not.”

The union and advocacy group are working to recruit Santander workers and send a message to the bank’s shareholders before their annual meeting next month. The parent company of Santander Holdings USA Inc., Spain’s Banco Santander, employs unionized workers in dozens of countries in South America and Europe.

Santander is the first group of US bank workers attempting to organize. Last month, workers and union organizers held demonstrations in Boston and Dallas, where the bank’s auto-lending subsidiary, Santander Consumer USA Inc., is located.

Santander Holdings USA Inc. has faced a series of regulatory actions recently. Last week, the Federal Reserve told the bank to increase oversight of its subprime auto-lending unit because it has repeatedly failed to comply with federal and state consumer protection laws.

Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.