This observation on America’s credit unions is from Leo Sammallahti, Marketing Manager, for the Coop Exchange. Leo lives in Finland.
“When I first read about a “Credit Union Governance Modernization Act” I was optimistic that this would help ensure there is more democratic accountability in the form of open and contested elections. Unfortunately this seems not be the case. Rather the focus is making expelling credit union members easier.
“I totally support being able to expel abusive and violent members to protect the staff. If there has been cases where this has been made too difficult they should be tackled with better legislation. If the new act is limited to cases like this, I totally support it.
“However, I’m concerned whether the act could be used by incumbents to solidify their positions by expelling critical members seeking to challenge them? I’m not saying this is the case, just interested whether such risk is involved. I also question the language used in it, talking about how credit unions should have more control over their members. Shouldn’t it be the other way around–how to ensure members have more control over their credit unions?
“I believe that perhaps more than ever, American democracy would benefit from revitalization of credit union democracy. Instead of focusing on polarizing politics, credit unions could foster vibrant democratic practices rooted in their local communities, without party political point scoring and division.
We also need to encourage young people with skills and ideas to stand for the board for this to work out. This is the most educated generation in the history of the country, so I’m sure there are more than enough qualified candidates to stand for the board.”
A Second Observation
Apropos to Leo’s last comment, last week I received the following email from a senior credit union employee:
“CU’s are supposed to be democratically governed through the election of member chosen representatives. Due to a possible age-driven mass exodus of board members, it appears that replacement of these directors is a coming problem.
“Director replacements are full of issues such as the CEO filtering and controlling who gets nominated; or the nominating committees filtering applicants, NOT by qualifications, but by other unknown criteria. And anyone not nominated must solicit petitions to get on the ballot, an almost impossible process that is frankly a JOKE.
“I am mentoring a midlevel credit union leader in (state). He has been trying to offer his youthful vision and services to a credit union board by getting on the ballot. The push back he is receiving from many angles is sad and upsetting to me. This young man could add significant value.”
Are these two observations on the lack of young people on boards just a coincidence? Or is this generational absence in credit union governance glaringly obvious to anyone taking note?