Volunteers May Have to Take Things into Their Own Hands to Change Lack of Board Representation
Credit union volunteer professionals in California are discretely discriminated against for election to trade association boards including the boards of corporate credit unions, CUSOs, CUNA Mutual, WOCCU, and organizations such as the Filene Institute. The process is so discriminatory that few dare to try to get elected. Credit union volunteers share some of the blame because they do not get involved in the voting process. They leave the voting to the staff. Every ballot should reflect the position of the board with input from the staff. In many cases, the board chairperson has unfortunately been there forever and does not desire to address the issue. For CUNA Mutual board positions, I understand why staff desire to rotate the vacancies among themselves because they receive handsome compensation from CUNA Mutual, and most of them receive a nice monthly pension for life after they leave the CUNA Mutual board. The argument that volunteers have to "earn their stripes" to be elected to boards is without merit and is demeaning. Dan Mica's latest remarks about volunteers being on boards are insulting (See related story page 1). Most volunteers have achieved great success in their occupations - more so in many instances than their CEOs. I have seen CEOs hired who were insurance salespeople, stock brokers, etc. Some have been very good and some not so good. Another invalid argument is that you have to get known in the industry to get votes. Of course that helps. But, I would like for every volunteer to recall how many staff people are on the boards of CUNA, WOCCU, CUNA Mutual, Filene, etc. whom they know or have heard of. So, if we have to know volunteers before we will vote for them, why do we vote for staff people whom we do not know? I propose that from one-third to one-half of the number of positions on each board be dedicated for volunteers. Some semblance of parity is long overdue. The August 5th edition of Credit Union Times contains a photo of Gerry Foley from Ireland who received the Distinguished Service Award for his service to WOCCU as chairperson. Foley is a credit union volunteer. Unfortunately, no volunteer from the USA will ever be eligible to achieve this award because they are effectively blocked from eligibility to serve on the WOCCU board by CUNA. This is indeed unfortunate. Equally unfortunate is the practice of dedicating seats on boards for trade association leaders. There is something very wrong when trade leaders can be on boards but credit union volunteers are effectively excluded. Additionally, credit union volunteers can never serve on the credit union committee for NASCUS. Their bylaws do not allow volunteers to be nominated to the committee. At one time, NCUA supported this organization with an office and a staff person. Why should our federal regulatory agency subsidize an entity which discriminates against credit union volunteers? For the most recent NAFCU Board elections, the nominating committee nominated credit union volunteer Bob Scott from Pentagon FCU for a board seat. Although there is currently only one volunteer on the board, Mr. Scott was not elected. A NAFCU director who was already on the board but whose board seat was slated to be eliminated after one more year was elected for a vacant position. Something is drastically wrong when there is a vacancy and a person whose term has not expired is elected over another highly qualified person because he is a volunteer! It is time for change. It can be achieved gracefully or volunteers are likely to sooner or later exert their influence. I hope that those who direct the parade of volunteers to Washington each year to show legislators why credit unions are different will voluntarily understand the wisdom and benefits of having a diversity of people with varying backgrounds on all of our boards. The National Association of Credit Union Chairmen also deserves some criticism. From outside, it appears that they do no more for volunteers than attend a conference each year. They should be championing the cause of credit union volunteers. NACUC even excludes most credit union volunteers from participating in their organization. When they were asked to unite into an organization which includes all credit union volunteers, they turned a cold shoulder. What kind of message does that send to the rest of the credit union world and to our adversaries? It is time for NACUC to take a long and hard look at any benefits derived by credit union directors from their organization and make changes to benefit all volunteers. Charles Dawes Director Credit Union Directors Association Roseville, Calif. (Editor's Note: The NASCUS Credit Union Advisory Council (what the letter writer attributes as the NASCUS "credit union committee,") consists of member credit unions that are represented by an individual "representative." This individual is designated by the credit union. Often the credit union designates its CEO; however, that is it is not a NASCUS requirement and directors can be designated.