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APPLE VALLEY, Minn. – While several thousand Northwest Airlines mechanics and custodians continue to strike, Wings Financial Federal Credit Union said it is continuing to maintain business as usual. The $1.5 billion credit union was originally chartered to serve Northwest employees but changed its name in July 2004 after expanding to a trade, industry and profession charter (TIP) in December 2003. Since Aug. 20, 4,500 Northwest unionized mechanics, cleaners and custodians have been on strike refusing to take pay cuts and layoffs, which could have reduced the carrier’s staff by nearly half. To keep afloat, the struggling airline said it would need to cut their wages by about 25%. At less than 4%, the striking workers impact only a small percentage of Wings Financial’s 118,000 member base, said John Wagner, Wings Financial FCU vice president of marketing. The credit union has a “layoff information” section on its Web site that covers everything from what members should do with current loans in the event of a layoff to financial advice for 401(k)s and pensions. Meanwhile, Wings Financial’s operations are pretty solid, Wagner said. The credit union surpassed the $1.5 billion in assets mark in July. It also relocated a smaller branch in Eagan to a 5,300-square foot facility that resembles an airplane hangar complete with barrel ceiling, expansive glass and a control tower. Construction on the building began last September and houses a full-service branch including an ATM and drive-through teller lanes. Wings Financial Advisors, the investment advisory subsidiary of the credit union, also maintains an office within the new branch, which opened for business in April. Wings Financial also plans to relocate branches in Seattle and Atlanta next month, Wagner said. A TIP charter granted in December 2003 is also seeing results. Wagner said “growth is on target” and “a fair number of members” have joined from the air transportation industry since then. Both Wings Financial and Northwest Airlines were locked in a stalemate that started in April 2003 when the carrier made the decision not to renew the credit union’s ATM and office leases on the carrier’s properties in certain cites. Northwest Airlines made the decision after Wings Financial said it could not pay a royalty/user fee the carrier was seeking for the use of its logo and other trademarks. The fee would have amounted to half of the credit union’s net income or $6 million annually, Wings Financial President/CEO Paul Parish told members at the time. In May 2003, the airline agreed to extend the leases beyond their July 5, 2003 expiration to March 31, 2004 and eventually for three years beyond that but the dispute over the name and logo continued. The dispute over the name and logo was eventually resolved to both parties’ satisfaction. Wings Financial has certainly moved on making use of its TIP charter to establish several partnerships including serving AirTran’s more than 5,800 employees and members of the Airforwarders Association, a trade group for the airforwarding industry. [email protected]

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