Oregon CU Embraces Occupy Portland
As several more mayors moved to shut down Occupy encampments, demonstrators continue to be steadfast in promoting credit unions as the only alternative to banks.
Within the industry, some credit unions have welcomed the endorsement while choosing to keep their distance from the day-to-day sit-ins and demonstrations by Occupiers.
The $92 million Northwest Resource Federal Credit Union hasn’t shied away from Occupy Portland, welcoming many of those who marched downtown on Bank Transfer Day.
“It was just a really good day,” said Jim McCarthy, president/CEO of the Portland, Ore., credit union. “It energized the board and staff. Hopefully, we want to try and keep it going.”
Northwest Resource FCU opened up 20 new accounts in a two-hour period Nov. 5, and the Monday after Bank Transfer Day, added 10 more, McCarthy said.
The numbers may be considered small, he acknowledged, but for the credit union’s size, it was significant given its average new accounts each month is 24. NRFCU serves more than 6,100 members.
One of the highlights that put the credit union in the spotlight even more is seen in a You Tube video featuring a march of people to the cooperative’s only branch in Portland. Members talk about the reasons for joining NRFCU as Occupy Portland organizers provide next steps to moving beyond the banks.
Kim Faucher, NRFCU vice president of marketing, is seen in the video.
“We haven’t been afraid of the Occupy movement because they are pro-credit union,” Faucher told Credit Union Times.
Faucher said the credit union has a relationship with Oregon Banks Local, an organization that promotes keeping citizen dollars local. According to the group, 66% of private deposits in Oregon are held by five Wall Street banks. Faucher said NRFCU stayed in touch with some of the organizers of a “Move Your Money” campaign created a few years ago by Oregon Banks Local. The group coordinated the recent Bank Transfer Day march.
“We’re normally not open on Saturdays. People waited until that day to come to the credit union,” Faucher said.
McCarthy said the marchers were “very organized and well behaved.” After the day was over, he went out to the parking lot to assess the cleanup damage and found the place free of litter.
“We offered coffee and doughnuts. Our board chair came down,” McCarthy said. “For me, it was one of the best days. I’ve been [in the industry] for 14 years, but I’ve only been here for a little over six months as CEO.”
Occupy Portland recently made national headlines. According to The Associated Press, Portland Mayor Sam Adams told police to shut down the demonstrators’ site because it had turned into an unsafe and unsanitary place for those not involved in the movement.
Adams said he supports the Occupy message of income inequality and his decision to clear out the Portland camp was conflicted. Demonstrators said police used excessive force, The AP reported.
"I feel frustrated because it really finally has sunk in for me the opportunity that's about to be lost if this movement doesn't evolve," Adams told The AP.
Adams encouraged Occupy Portland to evolve by keeping their focus on public policy issues. "I certainly don't want the movement to be over," Adams said. "And I know the movement is probably very angry with me. I want them to succeed, but it can't be at any cost. It can't be at the cost of basic safety."