Please note: This was also posted on Verity Credit Union’s Our Voices blog. The views are my own.
Last Saturday, October 15th, protests occurred worldwide. Not all were focused on the subject of Occupying Wall Street (some nations are still fighting for their voice to be heard) – but the protests across the U.S. are focused on solidarity with the Wall Street Protesters. People are feeling so much outrage – that’s what launched the Wall Street protests, and is what keeps many people in Seattle returning to Westlake Park again and again. To me, it has never been enough to simply express my frustration. Instead, I am compelled to take positive, peaceful action to resolve the issues that I see in the world around me. That’s why I keep showing up.
The protests are the flame to my moth, for I see the ways credit unions can help our communities. Demonstrating alongside the other protesters provides an opportunity to listen to their stories. When asked in conversation, I offer guidance specific to the protesters’ needs. Credit unions can help, but I’ve been present at Occupy Seattle to witness and support, not to use it as a means to generate business for my CU. I’m there because the benefits of membership in a credit union are a key element of a healthy community. Even when I didn’t work in a credit union I would tout the benefits to those I encountered, so great is my belief in cooperative financial services.
There’s a misconception out there that in order to stop supporting for-profit financial services, all one needs to do is move their checking and savings accounts to a credit union. Through the “Move Your Money” campaign that began in 2009, and the “Bank Transfer Day” proposed for November 5th, people have begun moving their assets to CUs in earnest – it is amazing, though I caution that moving loans is equally as (if not more) important. In the midst of the frustration and anger that people are feeling, this move toward financial services that empower people through democratic process is a step in the right direction.
What we bring in through interest paid on loans, we give back out through dividend rates and the services that we provide. Like many credit unions, we work hard to keep people in their homes, and their cars in their driveways – even if they fall upon hard times. It takes a lot of communication and cooperation with our members to find solutions, and I’m proud of the work that we do. I believe that if more people had loans with credit unions heading into these difficult economic times, the neighborhoods around us would look a lot different – with fewer foreclosures and short sales as we helped to adapt loan terms to fit changing financial needs.
Credit unions across the nation are making difficult decisions in order to remain healthy for the long haul. Some credit unions have had to lay off staff or cut valuable programs such as financial counseling and financial literacy initiatives. Some credit unions, like Verity, have had to take a good hard look at their fee structure and begin charging for items that we used to be able to provide for free. It’s not dissimilar from how our members are looking at their budget and making difficult choices. Our commitment remains to serve our community in the best way that we can, and it is to that end that we seek to cooperate with our members.
The key to changing the world lies in cooperation, I believe this. I am so grateful for our members who recognize the Credit Union Difference, and make a conscious choice to be with us, and cooperate with us. If you have a story to share of the difference credit unions have made in your life, I’d love to hear it. Please share in the comments below, or send me an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to learn more about the Cooperative Movement beyond cooperative financial services (a.k.a. credit unions)? In the Seattle area? Check out SLICE this Friday and Saturday – tickets available on sliding scale in advance and at the door. No one will be turned away.