In the midst of two of the most serious threats in recent memory to credit unions’ ability to fully serve their members, it seems timely to revisit the League’s participation in CUNA’s Plan to Win, A 435 Seat Strategy.
CUNA launched the Plan to Win in 2012 because banker opposition and overall Capitol Hill gridlock continued to stall some of our legislative initiatives. Little more than a year into the program, its importance became strikingly clear first when the credit union tax exemption came under threat, and a year later when NCUA unveiled its onerous risk-based capital (RBC) proposal.
What started as a proactive, offensive plan almost immediately demonstrated its value as a crucial defensive tool as well.
So what is the Plan to Win, A 435 Seat Strategy?
Simply put, it’s a set of advocacy goals, or vital steps, to ensure that every member credit union meets its collective responsibility to the credit union movement, so together we’re able to move lawmakers to where they “can’t say no” to credit unions.”
Let’s face it; we’ll never be able to compete with the deep pockets of bankers. But we have something bankers don’t, a committed constituency, the breadth and depth of which is the envy of every bank lobbyist. Our strength is in our numbers. Sure, bank customers outnumber credit union members, but how many bank customers actually like their bank, or more importantly, will take time to defend their bank to law and policy makers?
That’s why we regularly communicate to state and federal lawmakers the size of their credit union constituency. But the numbers alone are not enough. Lawmakers have to hear from those constituents. Otherwise we run the risk of being viewed as a paper tiger.
We got the message across when it came to municipal deposit reform with 5,000 postcards to Assembly members and 5,000 postcards to Governor Christie. Last year we got the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” message through with 5,000 postcards to targeted members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation and more than 5,100 emails, telephone calls, and Twitter messages to our Capitol Hill lawmakers. Most recently, the system got NCUA’s attention with an unprecedented number of RBC comment letters from credit unions and lawmakers.
So how can a credit union ensure it’s meeting its collective responsibility? A good place to start is by ensuring its participation in various Plan to Win support components by regularly updating their Project Zip Code (PZC) numbers and ensuring they have an up-to-date Participation Agreement (PA) on file with the League.
PZC is safe, easy to use, and is a critical component of our advocacy program. Some 80 million CU members have already been counted nationwide. It is absolutely essential that we have 100% participation in N.J.
The law requires we receive the permission (PA) of NJCUL member credit unions in order to keep them informed of key CUNA and NJCUL federal political activities. Neither CUNA nor the League will contact any of your members directly, but it’s important that credit union professionals and volunteers know about these activities. Credit unions can decide individually whether they want to pass along this information to their members.
These tools are fundamental to communicating the size of, and mobilizing, our grassroots strength. In addition to participating in these vital Plan to Win steps, credit unions must also ensure that, at a minimum, their professionals and volunteers step up to the plate when we issue a Call-to-Action.
Credit unions should also consider participating in one or more of our various advocacy events such as the annual CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, Capitol Hill visits (Hike-the-Hill), meetings with state and federal lawmakers in their district offices, and Chapter Meetings that host elected officials as guest speakers.
As a cooperative system, each and every credit union has a responsibility not only to its own members, but to the members of every other credit union as well. While many of our credit unions are doing more than their fair share, it’s time that all assume responsibility for our mutual success.