An advocacy army more than 200 strong joined the Northwest Credit Union Association in Olympia, Wash., Jan 24 to message legislators about cooperative, not-for-profit credit unions and how they serve 3.6 million consumers in Washington. It was hard to miss the delegation, as they wore signature yellow and blue wool neck scarves, and gifted lawmakers with iced cookies documenting the benefits of CU membership.
For all grassroots advocates, the essential point driving their passion is how credit unions distinguish themselves in the financial industry.
“We are not just financial institutions, we are first and foremost cooperatives,” said NWCUA President/CEO Troy Stang. “Often legislators are pleasantly surprised to learn that 50 percent of the population-their constituents—trust their wallets to you.”
A key piece of legislation that Washington advocates are fired up about is SHB/1209, allowing municipalities to deposit unlimited funds in credit unions, and removing the $250,000 limit.
“This is not a banks vs. credit union bill,” said Paula Sardinas, NWCUA vice president, legislative affairs for Washington. “It’s a good public policy bill.”
Sardinas encouraged advocates to take their #CUobsession to their visits with all 147 legislators. “We are in it to win it,” Sardinas said.
Advocates came to their feet in support of Linda Jekel, who will retire later this year as director of the Division of Credit Unions, Washington Department of Financial Services (DFI).
Since beginning her role as Director in 2002, Jekel said, credit union membership has increased In the Evergreen State from two million to 3.4 million consumers, and assets have increased from $17 billion to over $47 billion.
“You are doing a great job growing the industry, and doing it in a safe and sound way,” Jekel said.
Rep. Brandon Vick (R-Dist. 18) received the Community Impact Award for his support of credit unions and their members. He is noted particularly for his early support of SHB/1209.
Also honored was Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson (D Dist. 34) who has admired credit unions’ financial performance, practices, and services since before the recession.