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Mother's Day Protest Sends an Unwelcome Message to Western Union

May 10, 2007

Western Union shareholders will get an unwelcome message today, as protestors outside their meeting are using International Mother's Day to bring attention to what they say is price gouging on the part of the country's largest money transfer company. Immigrants form the backbone of Western Union's money transfer business, but Francis Calpotura of the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action says they pay too much for the privilege.

“Western Union consistently charges the most in transaction fees, and gives the least exchange rate from all of it's competitors.”

A Western Union spokesperson says their rates are competitive in every market, adding that rates have recently gone down by 3 percent. Calpotura reports that their profit margin consistently hovers near 32 percent, so he believes there's plenty of room to treat their best customers better.

Western Union formed a charitable foundation five years ago, but if charity begins at home, Calpotura says the company has given out only 32 cents for every hundred dollars profit the company has earned.

“That's about ten times less than even what Wal-Mart gives. It's a paltry amount that Western Union gives out through its foundation, and it doesn't go to the communities and families that use their service at all.”

Donna Hernandez with the Applied Research Center says protesters led by a Mariachi band will deliver an International Mother's Day message to Western Union's CEO, Christina Gold.

“We're asking her to give a gift to mothers on Mother's Day -- lower the cost that they charge people to send money and also reinvest more money into the communities that fund their services.”

Michael Clifford/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY