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I’m taking Sarah Cooke’s advice (CU Times, Oct. 8, 2008), and I think you should as well. ["If credit unions truly don't see a value in two [trade] groups, we’ll certainly find out as the credit unions vote with their feet.”] The bottom line is that, no matter what we have tried, we haven’t moved NAFCU and CUNA to speak with one voice. It may be that only voting with our dues dollars will get the desired action and results. This year has been an eye opening experience for Bethpage. Our credit union has been a member and strong supporter of NAFCU for over 20 years and CUNA for the last 10. This year, we led the formation of a task force comprising 10 credit unions to address the issue of having both national trade organizations speak with one voice regarding current important credit union issues. Our goal was to consider and develop a long-term solution to the issue, including merger. We came together because we were extremely frustrated over the lack of progress on key provisions of CURIA. In fact, we were at a loss to confirm any significant success in Congress in the interest of credit unions in the last decade. We felt that much of the delay on CURIA had to do with our trades being at odds with each other, while bankers used this vulnerability to win major legislative battles. These key failures included unfavorable outcomes regarding risk-based capital, business lending expansion, alternative capital and serving the underserved. We can never reach our goals of really supporting our members and growing if we cannot agree on how to approach the key regulatory issues of our time. It is clear to us that with our two trade organizations working in opposition, we cannot and will not be successful. While the task force garnered a great deal of support from the credit union community, much to our disappointment, our industry trade associations never seriously discussed the issues we put before them. And while all of this is going on, the marketplace in which we operate and the unprecedented challenges of the current economic environment have made our future increasingly more uncertain and tenuous, all of which makes it more important to speak with one voice. The task force’s position is that credit unions may have to vote with their dollars. I’ve thought long and hard about this and have decided that Bethpage will withdraw its membership from NAFCU. I think all credit unions should join me in the consideration of choosing to belong to just one trade organization (dropping out of both of them serves no one but the banks). Otherwise, we will continue to promote the very environment that isn’t working. In these critical times, we are in dire need of a trade association in Washington that is supporting us. Bethpage chooses CUNA because, in our opinion, they have a much stronger legislative staff and a deeper and more effective organization. We hope that CUNA accepts our action as a statement of how passionate we feel about speaking with one voice-as a wake up call-and does not consider it a wide endorsement of all of their policies and programs. CUNA also has a need to reinvent itself for continued relevance. On the other hand, NAFCU’s position on direct membership, without need to join a state league, is very important to my credit union and others. In order to remain a viable consumer choice, we must win in Congress. We can no longer thrive without capital reform, access to capital markets and many other options our competitors avail themselves of everyday.

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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