Unite For Good: Do we really have a choice?

Last week, scores upon scores of credit unions throughout the United States joined together with their colleagues and cooperative cousins to mark International Credit Union Day. After all, what better way is there to celebrate our many accomplishments as financial cooperatives, especially the valuable contributions we continue to make to the underserved and their communities throughout the world. The observance of International Credit Union Day offers us a splendid forum to make our voices heard.

Yes, it’s certainly wonderful to levy all kinds of accolades upon ourselves in recognition of the good that credit unions have produced throughout the world, but unless we heed the central message that accompanied this year’s celebration, the future success of credit unions and all the good we can muster up from within may be in perilous jeopardy.

This year, the central theme for International Credit Union Day was Credit Unions Unite for Good. The theme provided the focus for all messaging that surrounded our global observance.

I have to say, when I ponder those words—Unite For Good—particularly within the context of all our challenges as a movement within the U.S., not to mention all the challenges confronting our members on a daily basis, from sequestration to lack of employment, I can only ask, do we really have a choice?

It’s clear to me that the answer is quite evident as there are many good reasons to cite. Here are three.

1) Consider the Seven Defining Principles of a Cooperative

The credit union business model is rooted in these same seven principles, and among them is the principle of cooperation with other cooperatives.

As I understand it, if you define your organization as a credit union, then you accept this principle as part of your conduct. There are no ifs, ands or buts. There’s no holding back. You either choose to cooperate with other credit unions and co-ops or you don’t. If you choose not, then it may be wise to consider why you continue to refer to yourself as a credit union.

Think of it this way. If we all can determine the specific principles that we wish to follow which define our individual membership in a religion, as a U.S. Citizen or as part of the HOA where we live, life would be so sweet; right? Well, the reality is that we—collectively—determine those principles; not individually.

If we care about our identity as a credit union, then we are called to cooperate with other cooperatives; period.

2) Consider a cooperative mindset

Given the values we espouse as credit unions and everything we stand for and represent within the financial services marketplace, don’t we have an obligation to fight for one another?

In addressing this year’s 50th Anniversary gathering of Defense Credit Unions, Mr. Ernest Gregory, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, advocated that credit unions must fight for one another so that they can prevail, just as soldiers fight for one another so that their unit can prevail—and  in doing so, help to preserve our freedom.

If credit unions don’t fight for one another, each is left isolated to face the challenges and consequences—alone. Is that what we want?

3) Consider your self interest

If you’re a parent, you know how you feel about your children and family. Is it fair to say you’d do just about anything to protect them and keep them safe?

In the same way, credit unions must do whatever it takes to safeguard the interests of their members, their owners. Yes, this includes preserving the credit union tax-exempt status. If we fail or neglect to do whatever it takes, we place credit unions at the mercy of others—the American Bankers Association and the interests of big banks—and we all know what they advocate.

So when you hear the rally cry, Unite For Good, ask yourself, do I really have a choice?

I’m convinced you’ll find the answer to be quite evident.

Walt Laskos

Walt Laskos

Walt Laskos, C.U.D.E., M. Div., is editor-in-chief of CUNA’s monthly flagship publication, Credit Union Magazine. He is a DE (Development Educator) with a background spanning more ... Web: www.cuna.org Details