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MADISON, Wis. – A labor dispute between CUNA Mutual and its union sparked up in ’04 and unfortunately for both sides there were casualties. The union is the Office of Professional Employees International Union Local 39. It represents roughly 1,300 of the company’s employees based in CUNA Mutual’s Madison, Wisconsin headquarters. On March 31 of this year a three-year collective bargaining agreement expired and the two sides hoped to quickly sign a new deal, but progress was slow. CUNA Mutual stated repeatedly that it had to make changes in the way it deals with the union in order to ensure it can compete financially in the future. The company’s proposal saves them millions on healthcare costs according to CUNA Mutual by bringing the union employees under management’s healthcare plan. This can give employees coverage for as low as $15 a month per individual and $80 per family. It does reduce union employees’ plan choices, though the union doesn’t seem to mind. In fact the union says it would accept the health care changes. CUNA Mutual also pushed to make pay more performance based. It would provide raises that total 4% in each of the three years of the contract, with half of this amount allocated based on performance in years two and three. The new proposal also changes the bonus plan, calling for employees to choose either a longevity bonus or a company performance bonus. The union says it can live with most of these things, but needs more clarification. Where things really bog down is with outsourcing. The current proposal gives CUNA Mutual more authority with outsourcing positions. The union says the golden rule of organized labor is not to give away bargaining rights, so it is unlikely to budge on this point. CUNA Mutual isn’t either. In fact at the end of the year the two had a legal battle over the outsourcing of 22 janitorial jobs, which CUNA Mutual says saves it $1 million a year. The decision went to arbitration, and an arbitrator said the outsourcing violated the labor contract. A U.S. District Court judge later upheld this decision. The stalemate took an odd turn back in August when CEO Mike Kitchen was forced to resign after revealing to the board that he offered $1,000 in financial assistance to a group of union employees attempting to form its own bargaining group. The money was to be used for legal help. The move seemed to defy logic as many wondered why Kitchen would make a move so obviously fraught with peril. The union maintains that Kitchen was in essence set up by some key management staffers at the company who were concerned that Kitchen was getting too close to getting a new collective bargaining agreement signed. Sources close to this story even allege that certain members of CUNA Mutual’s legal team signed off on what Kitchen offered the employees, though no one will go on record about that and Credit Union Times has been unable to document any of these allegations. Kitchen did seem to be making progress. He met with OPEIU president Michael Goodwin twice in person and Goodwin reported to OPEIU Local 39 membership that a new deal was imminent. Since Kitchen’s departure, progress has stalled. The two sides scheduled a series of three meetings in November that produced no results and they even cancelled the third meeting. The latest salvo from the union side was particularly aggressive. Its members and supporters picketed the home and credit union of CUNA Mutual Chairman Loretta Burd, who is CEO of Centra CU in Indianapolis. The union passed out fliers to members and carried signs that accused Burd of leading union busting. Police were called to the scene at her house and at the CU, but no arrests were made. The union also picketed the home of DPS CEO Alan Peppers in Colorado. There were no arrests or incidents at that location either. These pickets were all part of the union’s corporate campaign, which is a union tactic designed to make the dispute very public. It even sent post cards to CUNA Mutual clients about the situation. CUNA Mutual has said repeatedly that the union’s attempt to involve clients doesn’t make sense because that can only hurt the financial health of the company its members rely on for their livelihood. The union says this long drawn out fight hasn’t been good for its membership, claiming it has lost approximately 100 members since this all started, though CUNA Mutual says the number is much lower. At press time, the stalemate was still intact, with the union maintaining that CUNA Mutual is intent on busting the union and CUNA Mutual sticking to its guns that the current proposal is above average in the marketplace and deserves ratification. No new negotiating sessions are scheduled. One union official said nothing is likely to happen until January. [email protected]

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