Alabama and Florida
Some credit union leaders draw parallels to 1998 and the battle to pass H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act.
“Coming out of H.R. 1151, we were never stronger as a lobbying force, and never more united as a movement,” says Patrick La Pine, president/CEO of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, which serves credit unions in Alabama and Florida. “That issue united us. I see this as another watershed moment— one that gets us back to basics and helps us remember that if we want to succeed, we need to be united and work collectively.
“CUNA is using tools that didn’t exist in 1998— videos, apps, and social media—to spread the message,” La Pine says. “We have credit unions that are producing and posting videos, and pushing out text messages to their members. First and foremost, we need to educate credit union employees, board members, and members.”
Alabama Telco Credit Union in Birmingham is doing just that. “We saw the importance of educating and involving staff before doing anything else,” says Stanton Davis, vice president of marketing for the $600 million asset credit union.
The credit union’s training efforts include:
• Meeting with staff to raise awareness;
• Assigning action items, such as sending messages to Congress through DontTaxMyCreditUnion.org;
• Creating handouts staff will give members at teller lines and drive-through lanes at the credit union’s 16 branches;
• Posting a banner ad on the credit union’s intranet that links to information about the campaign; and
• Preparing messages for the credit union’s social media outlets.
After staff is up to speed, Alabama Telco will spread the word to members. “We’ll record six-second videos on Vine of members and employees asking Congress not to tax credit unions,” Davis says. “We’ll post those to our social media outlets.” Vine is a mobile app that lets users create and post video clips (up to six seconds long) on social media.
Messaging on lobby monitors, email blasts, newsletter articles, and a website pop-up ad will further educate members. Visits with legislators and a media campaign also might be in the works.
“The time to act is now,” Davis says. “We can’t procrastinate. The more voices legislators hear from, the better.”
The Illinois Credit Union System has had its advocacy network on high alert since last fall. That’s when the Illinois Bankers Association initiated an anti-credit union attack in the media, and CUNA designated Illinois as one of three states with the greatest potential for taxation activity, says Dan Plauda, president/CEO of the Illinois Credit Union System.
He says the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” materials now serve two purposes:
1. As a key message in the national advocacy effort to preserve credit unions’ tax exemption, and
2. As an important part of efforts at the state level to refute Illinois bankers’ claims.
The campaign is extremely important, says Plauda. “Consumers who aren’t fully informed about the credit union difference can be swayed in either direction,” he says. “But when consumers are well-versed on this issue, they strongly support the credit union tax exemption.”
EarthMover Credit Union in Aurora, Ill., is making it clear to members that a tax on its credit union is a tax on them. Its website (earthmovercu.com) carries the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” banner, which takes members to the video and directs them to take action.
“We also posted a message on Facebook and asked our staff to ‘like’ it and share a post,” says Libby Calderone, president/CEO of the $225 million asset credit union.
While social media is a great way to connect with members it rarely sees, the credit union still gets heavy lobby traffic, says Calderone. So front-line staff have fliers they can hand out that explain the taxation threat and how members can take action.
EarthMover also has a computer station set up in the lobby for its members to access the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” website and contact their lawmakers.