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MADISON, Wis. – There must be a light at the end of the tunnel in the labor dispute at CUNA Mutual, but there’s not even a glimmer of light showing yet. Though the stalemate continues to trudge on, the ugliness of the dispute has picked up dramatically. Union officials, members and supporters staged pickets at the homes of CUNA Mutual board members and the credit unions they operate. At first, in a Dec. 5 press release, the union (Office of Professional Employees International Union Local 39) claimed to have staged pickets in four cities: * Columbus, Indiana targeting CUNA Mutual Chairman, Loretta Burd, who is president/CEO of Centra Credit Union; * Denver, targeting board member Alan Peppers who is CEO of DPS CU; * Ormond Beach, Florida, targeting Ralph Canterbury, retired president of US Airways Federal CU; * Honolulu, targeting board member Farouk D.G. Wang, Director Buildings & Grounds Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa. The union says they picketed and handed out leaflets about the labor situation that stated CUNA Mutual is attempting to bust the union and outsource jobs. After Credit Union Times looked further into the picketing, it appears the Honolulu picketing never actually happened. One union official said a “landslide or mudslide” prevented them picketing Wang, so instead an OPEIU official spoke with Wang over the phone. In Ormond Beach, Florida, the union says it could not picket the home of Canterbury because he lives in a gated community. They said there was activity in the “community”, but could not produce anyone for Credit Union Times to talk with who might have been there. Details are sketchy in Denver, but it appears at least some picketing happened there, including at Peppers home. By far the brunt of this attack was felt worst by chairman Burd. Credit Union Times has confirmed that both Burd’s home and credit union were picketed on Friday Dec. 3. Chris Lupton, an OPEIU organizer, said the picketing first started at Burd’s house early in the morning. “We were out there for about 45 minutes. Her husband called the sheriff on us. We weren’t doing anything wrong. The one thing we were told was to move our cars,” said Lupton. From there the picketers moved to the credit union. Lupton said they stayed just outside of the CU’s parking lot handing out leaflets and carrying signs. Lupton described it as a very successful picket with about 40% of members leaving the CU taking leaflets. Lupton said the police were called, but did not take any action against his group. However, he said another group may have been asked to move their pickets. One source who did not want to be identified said some of the 20 or so picketers were in fact blocking drive-thru lanes and causing a disturbance. The information officer for the Columbus Police Department told Credit Union Times that the police were called to the scene at both Burd’s home and the credit union, but no charges were filed and any issues were resolved on the scene. The pickets at Burd’s home and CU adds to the increasing ugliness of the dispute, and clearly indicates the union’s corporate campaign is back on. It had been halted after former CUNA Mutual CEO Mike Kitchen met with OPEIU President Mike Goodwin this summer. The union says the corporate campaign is designed to bring the battle to the public and to CUNA Mutual clients. “I think we want to wake them up a little bit to the fact that they have done nothing to resolve this contract, that they are not being well advised. Whoever they are listening to is giving them bad advice,” said OPEIU Local 39 Business Manager John Peterson. “They’re going to have a great year if not a better year than last year. We want to open people’s eyes that they’re not working with us,” said Peterson. CUNA Mutual spokesperson Sydney Lindner said the latest pickets won’t deter CUNA Mutual from seeking a contract that it believes is fair for the employees and fiscally responsible for the company to position it for the future. “We believe that Friday’s picketing is inappropriate, uncalled for, and completely tasteless, and we fail to see how picketing our customers will benefit the employees that Local 39 claims to represent,” said Lindner. “This type of union thuggery will not cause us to deviate from what we need to do to ensure the long-term financial viability and success of our company,” said Lindner. She said the company still believes its current proposal is an excellent offer and deserves ratification. There was more incendiary news last week that the union says goes to the heart of its argument. A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the union in a case concerning CUNA Mutual’s decision to outsource 22 janitorial positions. The union initially claimed that the outsourcing violated its collective bargaining agreement and called for arbitration. In March an arbitrator agreed with the union. CUNA Mutual fought that, saying the arbitrator did not have the authority to consider the dispute. The U.S. District Court ruled the arbitrator did not exceed his authority. Further, the court said the lawsuit was frivolous and ordered CUNA Mutual to pay the union’s legal fees. “Although I cannot conclude the plaintiff (CUNA Mutual) pressed its case in bad faith, plaintiff should have known its suit was doomed to fail in light of the well-settled law against its position,” the court said in its ruling. “We are naturally pleased with this result. We hope CUNA Mutual will accept the decision and meet with us to return the housekeeping work to the union,” said Peterson. Lindner pointed out that of the 22 people affected by the outsourcing, 16 took other jobs at the company. The other six elected to take the company’s severance package. She said CUNA Mutual is saving $1 million a year by outsourcing and the company believes it is in its best interest to be able to outsource when it makes good business sense. In the new contract on the table, CUNA Mutual would have been able to make this outsourcing move without having to face arbitration. “This ruling will not have an impact on the company’s bargaining proposal. This decision reinforces why the outsourcing provision contained in our contract offer is necessary to ensure our ability to manage the company in the best long-term interests of our consumers, policyholders and employees,” said Lindner. As for the court deeming the suit frivolous, Lindner said, “There’s nothing frivolous about a company having the right to save 50% on a $2 million budget.” She said the ruling gives non-union competitors of CUNA Mutual an advantage to run their companies more cost effectively. The two sides have not scheduled any new negotiating sessions have been scheduled. -

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