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Mike Welch’s column of May 19 (“When CMG and OPEIU Have a Standoff, CUs Lose”) is correct on most points. I believe that with a better understanding of the circumstances there’s still hope of resolving the union-management dispute. I say “still hope” because it is far more serious this time than any previous contract negotiation at CUNA Mutual. I agree with Welch’s premise that when union and management feud, credit unions lose. This was my perception in the early 1990s at CUNA & Affiliates, when management and Local 39 were at odds. In 1992, I was elected chief steward of Local 39′s CUNA bargaining unit. The union and management then engaged in a process called interest-based bargaining (IBB). We were trained by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) and we began to repair the rift. IBB is a method that looks at each party’s separate interests and well as both parties’ mutual interests. Negotiators follow orderly steps toward resolution and agreement. Management joined in; it worked in 1992, and a dozen years later it is still working at CUNA, Inc. It has been suggested at CMG, even attempted, but has never taken hold. The point is not that IBB is magic and the single best way to reach agreement (although I think it comes close). My point is that mediation in various forms is but a phone call away, and those with a true interest in overcoming conflict will explore that option. In my opinion, CUNA Mutual management is willfully disregarding opportunities to resolve the current contract dispute. It’s not just vice-president Phillips Kimball – he’s simply the technician hired to implement management’s policies and decisions. Logically, the responsibility rests at the highest level of CUNA Mutual’s senior management. (Dare I ask whether the board of directors also is concerned about this very public conflict?) As a former negotiator, I understand that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story, every dispute. But there are always means to resolve disputes if both parties are committed. The informational pickets could be called off on Day One of a respectful and serious dialogue with the union. The issues of wages, hours and the rest could be resolved in a matter of weeks with mediation and the sincere participation of both sides. In the heat of battle, peacemaking may seem unrealistic, wishful thinking. But all of this is entirely practical. CUNA and Local 39 did it in the past, and our union/management team – just steps away from CMG on the same campus – continues the IBB legacy year after year. Failure to resolve at CUNA Mutual will be even worse than the strike that Welch foresees. It has the potential to drag out into a protracted battle, with Local 39′s survival at stake. It will become a national cause involving AFL-CIO unions and a barrage of charges back and forth. The result will be as Welch suggests: Concerning our members, the public and employees on both sides of the issues – credit unions will lose. Thanks for the well-done and timely column. Jeremiah Cahill “A Concerned Citizen” Madison, Wis.

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