Top Stories of 2017: Where Has the Innocence Gone?
The end of a year is a time to reflect on the events of the past 12 months and consider what they say about us as a society. I sure wish 2017 could be remembered by stories as innocent as the Pokémon craze. Or the “Seinfeld” finale. Or that time when U2 installed their latest album on everyone’s phone without asking.
Rather, the past year’s headlines have been a bit more serious. Here are four of the biggest news stories of 2017 that either originated in the credit union world or impacted it in some way.
Safety: A Thing of the Past?
In just a two-month timeframe, from December 2016 to January 2017, employees and members at three different credit union branches in Florida, Alabama and California experienced the terror of being held as hostages and terrorized during robbery attempts. These nightmares, coupled with the national news of mass shootings at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which killed 26 people, and on the Las Vegas strip, which took 58 lives – the most ever recorded in a mass shooting in U.S. history – made us all wonder, “Are we ever really safe?”
The threats of violence are real, and the credit union industry responded this year by putting more emphasis on preparing for these worst-case scenarios. For example, this year’s annual conference held by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions featured an active shooter workshop. For advice on how to prepare for an active shooter situation, read Tina Orem’s Oct. 8, 2015 story, “Active Shooters: 6 Mistakes Credit Unions Make,” and for a hostage-robbery incident, check out Peter Strozniak’s story from our Dec. 6 print issue, “Managing a Hostage-Robbery Crisis.”
Modern World, Outdated Mindsets
After eight years of having a black president in the Oval Office, many of us assumed racism in the U.S. was well on its way to being buried on a shelf in the pages of history books. We were wrong. The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlotesville, Va., where white supremacists protesting the removal of a Confederate statue drove a speeding car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman, followed by President Trump’s remarks that there was “blame on both sides” and the “Unite the Right” protesters included some “very fine people,” was a major indication that we still have a long way to go.
Racial insensitivity unfortunately became an issue in the credit union industry as well, leading us to report on two big stories. In May at a Sound Credit Union branch in Kent, Wash., a teller called 9-1-1 after Muslim member Jamela Mohamed refused to remove her hood as she was asked to for religious reasons, sparking a social media outrage after Mohamed posted a video of the incident on Facebook. Then, in November, Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union in Lewiston, Idaho faced scrutiny after a photo of four employees who came to work on Halloween dressed in Olympic uniforms and blackface appeared on Facebook.
Let’s hope we take some steps forward, not backward, on the issue of racial and cultural tolerance in 2018.
Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Roy Moore. Louis C.K. And perhaps the most shocking of all, Matt Lauer. This year, it seemed every day another powerful man was being accused of serious sexual misconduct, usually in the workplace. But it’s not that these incidents are taking place more often – it’s that more women nowadays have the guts to speak out about them.
On-the-job sexual harassment has been in existence since women first began working with men, and until recently, many of these guys got away with it. First-hand example: In the 1970s, my mother, a supervisor at an airline ticketing office in Manhattan, called her boss to ask him if she should hire a woman she had just interviewed for a new position. He asked, “Does she have big boobs?” Back then, the comment was laughed off, but today, I hope it would send the jerk straight out the door.
The continuing news of allegations against male public figures in 2017 has been disappointing, but it’s also inspired people to take action against harassment. So ladies, if you’re harassed by a male colleague, do not be afraid to share your story. HR managers, enforce a no-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace, and create an environment where female workers feel comfortable coming forward. And parents of young boys, monitor the messages your sons are exposed to and show them how to treat women with respect.
Who’s the Boss?
At CU Times, we’re great about unplugging on holidays and weekends, but the day after Thanksgiving was an exception. David Baumann alerted me he was working on a story so crazy that I cut my Black Friday shopping short and rushed to my computer to set up a breaking news email. Former CFPB Director Richard Cordray announced that Friday was his last day of work, and appointed Deputy Director Leandra English as acting director. But that same day, President Trump appointed Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as acting director, meaning both English and Mulvaney would show up at work Monday thinking they were in charge. Really? This is the kind of HR mistake you’d expect to see at a Dollar Tree, not a government agency.
That Tuesday, a judge ruled Mulvaney would serve as acting director, but the mix-up is a great example of the level of dysfunction that has been trickling out of Washington this entire year. Oh, and I’m not surprised Trump chose Mulvaney, who actually called the CFPB “a sick, sad joke,” to lead the agency. Some of his other picks, namely the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scott Pruitt, and their views on the mission of the agencies they were chosen to lead, seem to represent the president’s disdain for the particular work these agencies have been doing all along. In the case of the CFPB, if it were to be dismantled, it’s the financially-struggling consumer – the one most likely to be taken advantage of by a payday lender – who is going to suffer.
Much of the news this year has been hard to hear – and to report on. At CU Times, our goal is to continue bringing readers relevant, accurate news as quickly as possible, that will ultimately help you do your jobs better in the credit union world. I genuinely hope we fulfilled this goal for you in 2017. Thank you for reading, and see you next year!
Natasha Chilingerian is managing editor for CU Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.