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WILMINGTON, Calif. – Credit unions with a lot of members who belong to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have begun battening down the hatches in the face of a ongoing labor conflict that observers say seems unlikely to end anytime soon. Over the weekend of September 28 and 29 the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents West Coast shipping firms in contract negotiations with the ILWU, locked the doors on union longshoremen and have refused, as of deadline, to open them. The PMA action has shut 42,000 union workers, many of them credit union members, out of work and off the payrolls. Credit Union Times identified four credit unions in which ILWU members are a significant part of their membership. Two of the four, based in Washington, are smaller and affiliated with union locals. The larger of the two are based in California and, of those, one has a membership that is only partly made up of ILWU members. At $37 million, the 6,500 member ILWU Credit Union in Wilmington California is the largest of the four. Credit union CEO John Coleman estimated that between 75-80% of the credit union’s membership depend on an ILWU member’s paycheck. Coleman stressed in the face of the lockout that the credit union is supporting the ILWU and has begun taking steps to assist members who might start needing funds. “If the lock-out continues through Friday we will start making lock-out related loans available,” Coleman said. The lockout loans will be regular credit union loans, but made under more favorable terms than regular loans, he explained, and on an expedited basis. As well, the credit union will be open to helping members who already have outstanding loan balances to keep their loans on the books and make the payments. Coleman stressed that since the lockout has just occurred it is difficult to say what steps the credit union will have to take if it continues for a long time. It has been a long time since credit unions that have a lot of ILWU members have faced this type of situation. The ILWU and PMA have not faced a sustained job conflict since the 1970′s, the ILWU said, and the credit unions reported that long gap had led many of their members to let down their guard financially. “I wouldn’t say we have seen too much of an impact on our savings,” said Lucy Estrada, assistance vice president for the ILWU-FSC credit union, based in Oakland, California. At $20 million, the 4,500 member credit union is the second largest institution with a lot of ILWU members, but Estrada said that her credit union has been somewhat insulated since only about a third of its membership actually depends on a longshoreman paycheck. “Where we have seen more impact is in our rates of making loans,” she said, explaining that ILWU members who began seeing trouble on the horizon started delaying taking out loans or making other larger purchases last summer. In addition to the ILWU members, Estrada said her credit union had members who worked for UPS, a large commercial bakery, a large chocolate and candy manufacturer, an elevator services company and other industrial employers. “This diversification has really helped protect us from any job conflicts in any one industry or union,” she said. Estrada said that the credit union had not initiated any special loans or programs related to the labor conflict but said that, as time progressed, the credit union would act to help its members. The two smaller credit unions with a high percentage of ILWU members are based in Washington State and face a greater impact. All of Vancouver, Washington based Longshoremen’s Local Number 4′s 1,500 credit union members depends on a paycheck negotiated by the ILWU and Jeanne Westrick, CEO of the $16 million institution said that while the credit union is “doing ok for now,” she was holding her breath hoping for resolution of the job conflict. Westrick stressed that the credit union would support its members and the union but was unsure on what exactly it would do. No one responded from the Hoquiam Washington based ILWU Local 24 credit union, which has 488 members according to NCUA and just over $3 million in assets. The likelihood of a quick resolution to the labor conflict appeared mixed. Observers who considered a quick resolution more likely noted that the lockout was costing businesses dependent on the ports $1 billion per day and estimated that this level of economic pain would force the federal government to order the ports open. Under U.S. labor law the President has the power to order the parties to start moving freight. However observers who feared a long drawn out conflict noted that the dispute involves a long-standing fight over technology that is not likely to be negotiated away and that had left both sides far apart. [email protected]

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