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DAYTON, Ohio – The one thing that both sides of the strike at the $91 million Day-Met Credit Union appear to agree upon is that the fight is essentially about salary and not health benefits, as has been the trend in other places, although the strikers charged the credit union is “stingy” about those as well. “The credit union is doing very well, everybody is making money, our CEO has a salary of $106,000 per year and we just think we should be included in that,” said Beverly Hafer, a bookkeeper and 18-year veteran of the credit union who says she began as a telephone teller for the credit union. Hafer and other strikers from the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 98 say that salary is the issue. Most do not receive health insurance, nor do they get dental insurance, they say. They also maintain that the credit union has refused to negotiate on salary issues and charge that the credit union has hired a union busting lawyer. “He has a reputation all around the state,” Hafer almost growled when talking about Robert Dunlevey, the lawyer the credit union hired when the strike began. “We know he is looking to break this union.” Faced with all this, Hafer and the other employees, many of whom have worked for the credit union for years, walked out February 1. Ironically, this credit union was founded in 1957 to serve the members of United Auto Workers Local 696 which organized the local Delphi auto parts plant. That union has begun acting to support the 30 strikers and the AFL-CIO has also begun to get involved. “Well, they seem to be sharing my salary with the public, that’s always nice,” noted Mike Riesterer, CEO of the credit union. “We haven’t been sharing anyone’s actual salaries with the public because we believe that is between the organization and the employee.” Contrary to the strikers’ claims, Riesterer says the credit union has asked the union to negotiate from the beginning and can produce letters to that effect from the credit union to the president of the local. “We have always wanted to talk and have been very clear about that,” Riesterer said, “but I guess in the middle of a strike the truth is the first casualty.” Riesterer said that, contrary to the strikers’ claims, the credit union provided generous health coverage, which included dental coverage, for $10 per month to any employee who was not covered by a spouse’s coverage. Employees whose families were charged more money for their coverage on account of a credit union employed spouse received compensation from the credit union to cover that additional cost. “It’s simply inaccurate for them to say that we don’t offer health or dental,” Riesterer said. Riesterer agreed with the strikers that this was a fight about money, but disagreed sharply with the strikers’ contention that they were underpaid and had not received a raise in eight years. “The only way they get to the eight year figure is to include the current period under negotiation,” Riesterer said. “The fact is the current contract is two and a half years old and the previous contract contained wage increases.” He contended that the real salary fight came about after the credit union board, all of whom are union members, had decided to hold firm on the salary question after seeing CUNA’s Salary Survey which found the credit union’s salaries to be above the 90th percentile for credit unions of its size nationwide. “My board believes that its first responsibility must be to our 16,482 members, not 30 employees,” he said. “One reason we have very low turnover at this credit union is that they know that there really isn’t any other place in Dayton where they can do quite as well.” In place of a salary increase, Riesterer said the credit union had offered employees a series of bonuses they could earn in lump sum payments for attaining performance goals, a proposal that Hafer and the other strikers appeared to reject out of hand. Riesterer explained that the credit union board, despite their union background and pro-union sentiments, felt that it had to take a firm hand with the salaries because of a previous situation with another nearby union credit union that had been forced to merge with Day-Met about three years ago. The same union had been organized in that credit union, Riesterer explained, and that credit union had not compromised its demands even when it became clear doing so would have helped save that credit union, he said. That history helped motivate the board to act, he explained, not any anti-unionism. “It’s really ridiculous to say that we are trying to bust the union,” Riesterer said. “Far from it. This is a labor credit union. My whole board is union members.” Riesterer said it was true that the credit union had hired Dunlevey but denied that it did so because of any “union busting” reputation. “We only hired him after the strike began because once a strike starts the legal questions and regulations increase dramatically,” he said. As of press time, both sides said they hoped the dispute could be resolved. The credit union forwarded its latest proposal, which included a fifty cent per paid hour increase in the amount of the lump sum bonuses available, on March 5. “Right now both sides have the proposal and are studying it,” Riesterer said. “We don’t have any scheduled dates for continuing negotiations yet, but we are hopeful.” -

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