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More so than any other credit union publication, the editorial staff of Credit Union Times is diligent in making sure every news story is accurate, balanced, fair, objective, and unbiased. They have no such control over letters to the editor printed in this publication. One of the most striking examples is a letter that was printed recently, unedited and in its entirety. The letter writer took me to task for a column (“There are different ways to define membership,” September 19, 2001) in which I expressed my dismay over CUNA’s seemingly inconsistent membership policies. I have no problem with being challenged or chastised for what I write each week. However, I have a big problem when what I said is twisted into an excuse for a supporter of one credit union trade association (CUNA) to use my observations as a springboard for unfairly attacking another CU trade group (NAFCU). That’s exactly what an Idaho Credit Union League staff specialist did as she defended CUNA and its leagues by denigrating the role and purpose of NAFCU. In a page and a half of angry statements outlining why CUNA with its leagues is so much better than NAFCU, she made a number of inflammatory comments. The following are typical: “NAFCU exists to represent a small number of federally-chartered credit unions in a limited way. NAFCU has no need for leagues because it cares only for federal issues.” And later in that same anti-NAFCU paragraph she adds: “Together they (CUNA and its leagues) bring a dimension in service, responsiveness and result that NAFCU cannot hope to emulate.” What slamming NAFCU has to do with the subject of that column is baffling. Not only are these comments politically not too smart and unfair, they are also incorrect. For starters, NAFCU doesn’t exist to represent a “small number of federally-chartered credit unions,” as alleged. NAFCU exists to serve all federally-chartered credit unions of which there are more than the number of state-chartered credit unions. Not all federal charters belong to NAFCU, of course, but it does not exist only to serve a so-called “small number” of them. NAFCU was created because a number of large federally-chartered credit unions felt that CUNA was devoting too much of its resources to state-chartered issues. (My how times change). Actually, with approximately 1,000 member credit unions, NAFCU represents a hefty percentage of the larger federally-chartered credit unions which in turn represent a substantial amount of CU assets and members. Claiming that NAFCU “only cares for federal issues” is disingenuous as well as wrong. NAFCU cares for any issue, from any source, that could impact the ability of a federally-chartered credit union from serving its members. No surprise here, that’s what NAFCU’s charter clearly states as its purpose. As for NAFCU not being as responsive to its members as CUNA and its leagues, try telling that to the NAFCU membership which consistently rates NAFCU in the highest percentiles for individual member service. Clearly direct membership helps make those ratings achievable. Although NAFCU shouldn’t need me to defend them against disinformation, another conclusion is just plain silly: “Without those leagues, CUNA would be just another NAFCU,” as if just being a NAFCU is somehow a bad thing. If NAFCU has such limited value, why has its annual conference and exhibition been for so many years the largest and highest rated in the credit union industry even though CUNA has so many more members to draw from for its annual symposium? Why have a number of controversial issues over the years gone the way of the NAFCU position rather than the CUNA political stance, and in some well-known examples, why did NAFCU cause CUNA to do a 180-degree turn? “What if there had been no NAFCU?” That is a question that NAFCU members with long memories asked themselves when CUNA was pressuring the group to consider a merger so that “credit unions could speak with one voice.” Why does the Federal Reserve Board, including Chairman Alan Greenspan, sit down with the NAFCU Board each year to hear about the state of the credit union industry? Why do so many federally-chartered credit unions belong to NAFCU as well as to CUNA and one of its leagues? More recently, why do a number of large credit unions that have switched to a state charter continue to maintain their membership in NAFCU? These credit unions must see a value that justifies paying hefty membership dues to all three organizations. Ironically, pitting CUNA and its leagues against NAFCU wasn’t even close to what the column in question was about. As stated, both organizations have well-documented strengths and weakness. One of CUNA’s is that it has abdicated some things regarding participation to leagues in an inconsistent manner. A CUNA member credit union in one state is treated differently than a CUNA member credit union in a neighboring state. I simply asked why. Based on other anti-NAFCU comments, the Idaho letter writer is also forgetting that NAFCU member credit unions are among the most active at the community level, either on their own, or in support of league generated activities? Remember, most NAFCU members, as previously stated, are also members of the league and thus CUNA as well. But the letter writer charges that “Associations such as NAFCU simply do not have the knowledge of local issues.” Right, but neither does CUNA. However, in both cases, the local involvement is driven by individual credit unions that are members of both national CU groups. By the way, even CUNA does not escape the inaccuracies. CUNA is defined simply as having as its mission “to coordinate the efforts of the national credit union movement through state leagues.” That’s it? Wow. Pretty simple job all those high-priced CUNA staffers have. As I said back in September, what direct membership? Finally, I’ll never understand why NAFCU didn’t see the need to set the record straight itself. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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