From the Field: Are Contested Elections Vital to Cooperative Health?

The following comment was posted by Leo Sammallahti, a Finnish advocate for cooperatives, in response to “The Key to Credit Unions’ Future: “Trust Each Other””:

I have tried to find but have not come across any research looking into whether having contested board elections has an impact on the performance of a credit union. Some credit unions that have them seem to do just fine. Yet if I’ve understood correctly they are rare in US credit unions.  Imagine if only 10% of members of US credit unions would vote – that would be a massive democratic exercise of over 10 million Americans. That would demonstrate the cooperative difference to the mass membership in a way no advertising campaign can.

In Finland, with a population 5.5 million, the largest grocery chain is a cooperative owned by 2.4 million people and the most used bank is the OP cooperative, owned by 2 million people.  15%-25% of the members vote in the *largest* branch of these cooperatives. The US credit unions would mobilise over a million Americans for every 1% of increase in voter participation. Let’s not underestimate the impact of such a mass mobilisation.

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