I’ve had the opportunity to get out of town and visit with credit union leaders for the past couple of months when business in Washington has allowed for it. We discuss CUNA’s efforts to advance the credit union agenda in Washington and nationwide.
And credit union volunteers and staff—from Seward, Alaska, to Athens, Ga.—ask me, “What can I do to help?”
That’s music to my ears.
My answer never changes: “Respond to calls for action. Get involved.”
One of our greatest strengths as a movement is our millions of members and hundreds of thousands of dedicated credit union volunteers and staff.
Getting our credit unions—and their members, staff, and volunteers—engaged in the issues important to their future is the ultimate gauge of our success. Members of Congress are keenly aware of this.
“Votes will beat money any day,” according to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee. For us, it’s the logistical advantage we have over just about every other interest group in terms of voices and people.
But, our challenge is to bring to bear the power of those millions of voices to act on our issues. That is, to make phone calls, write emails/letters, visit with members of Congress, get involved in elections, support credit union candidates, and so on.
And, practically speaking, only CUNA and the leagues have the structure, expertise, and power to muster the people and their voices. We can reach into every state and every congressional district to draw out credit union representatives.
We’ve certainly done it before—most recently last year when more than 600,000 contacts by credit unions were made with members
of Congress to stop and study the impact of the new debit interchange law. Those contacts made an impression: The buzz in Washington centered around the “impact of the credit unions” on this issue.
But we can’t live in the past. There are new challenges with us now, and more in the future.
We continue to push hard on the member business lending legislation, now before Congress. It’s true that not all credit unions provide business lending, but the benefits of passing this legislation will, ultimately, benefit all credit unions. It will give credit unions more flexibility and lay the foundation to pass additional legislation, such as another bill before Congress to give credit unions more access to supplemental capital.
Not all credit unions may find they need this tool right now. But the fact that they’ll have the option open to them can be beneficial to their planning as they determine the best ways to compete in the marketplace and the best ways to serve their members.
And, certainly, protecting the credit union tax exemption is always on the credit union radar screen, especially when we know Congress must tackle spending and tax issues at the end of this year, and likely into 2013, as well.
Together, we can ensure you will attain your goals. Through our league partners, no other group
can match our reach to credit unions—and the hundreds of thousands, and often millions, of contacts we can generate in our interests with Congress.
No other group has built the system that we have—such as identifying 80 million credit union members through Project Zip Code, or bringing hundreds of credit union folks to Capitol Hill each year as part of our “Hike the Hill” program.
So, here’s how you can help: Answer the call when your league or CUNA asks you to contact your congressional representatives in support of credit union legislative initiatives (as many times as possible). Work with your league to support credit union candidates for office. Submit comment letters to regulators about proposed regulation. And get involved with credit union political action.
Answer the call to action for credit unions as soon as you can. Your future depends on it.
BILL CHENEY is CUNA’s president/CEO.