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ANDERSON, Ind. – The fight between the $52 million Madison County Federal Credit Union and its striking workers appears destined to last for some months and will involve elections for credit union board members. As of press time, the 27 striking members of Local Number 1 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union have gone back to work. But they have done so only on condition that the labor dispute go before a Federal mediator and with the specter of three of the 27 having had their positions permanently replaced by part-time workers who crossed the picket lines and were promoted. “Right now, we are back to work, but things are still very up in the air,” said Karen Perryman, president of the local. “Nothing is settled, by a long shot.” Perryman said that the union’s chief negotiator, as of press time, was with some of the employees testifying before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) about a previous union complaint that the credit union has tried to cut deals with individual union members in violation of federal labor law. Cynthia Springer, an attorney with the Indianapolis-based law firm of Baker and Daniels and the credit union’s chief negotiator, denied that the credit union has tried to negotiate with any individual union members. At one level the dispute appears to be about the usual salary and benefits issues that could cause labor friction anywhere. The union charges that its members are among the lowest paid unionized employees in Indiana and the NCUA data indicated that the credit union’s employee salaries and benefits lag those of the employees of its peers by just over $3,000 per year. The credit union countered that its final offer included a 3% wage increase for all employees and a 13% increase for part-time employees, a jump that would have made their salaries comparable to those of full-time employees. But at a deeper level the dispute between the two parties is so sharp and defined that it overshadows the wage and hour issues. The union maintained that the credit union has never been really interested in negotiating in good faith at all and has been out to “break the union” from the beginning. The credit union has denied this, but the union says the CU’s actions prove otherwise. For example, to substantiate their argument that the credit union has been out to break the union, the union officials have charged that the credit union’s law firm specializes in breaking strikes, helping management break unions or avoid having their workplaces unionized. Springer denied that her employer specializes in breaking unions but admitted that it only represents management in union disputes. “Representing unions really wouldn’t go with what we do,” she said. However, the firm’s Web site highlights its expertise in helping businesses remain union free. Baker and Daniels’ Labor and Employment Law Team “is the largest in Indiana, and among the largest nationwide,” the site advised. The site also advertised the firm as “well-known for helping employers maintain their non-union status,” adding that Baker and Daniels lawyers will “develop strategies and provide supervisory training to reduce the likelihood of facing union organizing. If you receive a petition for an election, we not only represent you before the NLRB, but strategize with you to develop an effective campaign to defeat the union,” the site said. How Important are Labor Roots? Jim Hensley, chief negotiator for the union, pointed out that it’s a little ironic and improbable that the credit union would have this sort of labor trouble. He pointed that the credit union began as a teachers credit union and estimated that between 50 and 75% of the credit union’s membership are members of one union or another and could be expected to support the union. Springer said that she doubted that figure and charged it was irrelevant since the credit union had both union and non-union members, but Hensley countered that the numbers would matter since the union planned to make the credit union’s labor policy and issue in the coming board elections. Hensley said the seven-member board was “against the union” by a count of five to two, but that three of the hostile board members face reelection in March. In addition, Hensley said, the union was still considering asking members of other unions, who are also credit union members, to withdraw the bulk of their money from the credit union and deposit it in two other credit unions that have said they would accept the deposits and support the union. “We don’t want to do that and hurt the credit union,” Hensley said, “but if they are going to destroy the union, then I guess we will take them with us.” When asked about the threat, Springer initially claimed not to have heard it, but the credit union referenced it later that day in a letter it gave out to members. “We believe this [the threat to withhold funds] is an attempt to hold the credit union hostage until they get their way or run the credit union into the ground (without regard to the harm to credit union members).” Contacted before press time Perryman said the union was committed to the election strategy as well as pursuing a complaint before Federal mediators, but she said the union still anticipates a fight. “These credit unions are notorious for changing their election and nominating rules at the last minute,” Perryman said. “They have already refused to give us a copy of their bylaws, charter or other documents where the elections rules might be found. It’s still going to be a long fight.” [email protected]

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