Oregon Credit Union Day at the Capitol Brings Wow-Factor to Salem
Engaging in a time-honored tradition that gets better year after year, Oregon’s well-oiled advocacy machine visits state legislators.
More than 230 advocates for Oregon’s credit unions fanned out across House and Senate offices in Salem Feb. 20 to represent two million consumer members. They worked to gain more support for three priority bills, two of which have already passed in the House and are headed for the Senate. At the Northwest Credit Union Association’s “Credit Union Day at the Capitol,” advocates collaborated to message the Credit Union Difference, and shared examples of economic and community impact from their own credit unions. To credit unions, political parties don’t matter—members do.
“Credit unions are bipartisan,” said Pamela Leavitt, NWCUA Policy Advisor, Oregon State Advocacy & Grassroots. “We support legislators who support credit unions and their members.”
With pressure on legislators to raise revenue and meet ambitious budget goals, it is increasingly important for advocates to message credit unions’ economic impact. The new independent analysis by ECONorthwest documented a positive $1.8 billion boost to the state’s economy last year. That information was shared with legislators.
Troy Stang, NWCUA President and CEO, urged advocates to share how credit unions’ not-for-profit, cooperative structure uniquely positions them to directly benefit their members, not Wall Street stockholders.
“As cooperatives, you are giving real, tangible value to members every day,” Stang said. “All of you do such amazing work in your communities. Make sure legislators know you are driving that with your hearts and with your strategic minds.”
Advocates came from all levels – the C-Suite, the board room, and branch lobbies—including student branches.
“Credit unions really give back to the community,” said first-time advocate Isaac VanHook, a high school junior and a teller at an InRoads Credit Union school branch in St. Helens. “At InRoads specifically, we gave about $35,000 since September to local schools which are already underfunded. It’s really nice to be part of that.”
The fact that advocates are well prepared is no surprise; they’ve worked for decades in collaboration with NWCUA and Leavitt to build trusting relationships with legislators.
Every legislative office was visited by a delegation of credit union advocates who either live in or work in credit unions with branches in that legislator’s district. In addition to those meetings, advocates heard from key legislators and State Treasurer Tobias Read.
“I’m not just a member of one credit union, not just a member of two credit unions, I’m a member of three different credit unions,” Read told cheering advocates. In the State Treasurer’s office, Read said, “We really want to make sure that people have access to financial tools that allow them to build the future they want, and I know that is very much aligned with the values of credit unions.”
The 2019 legislative Community Impact Award was presented to House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-OR-44).
“Credit union membership is a relationship,” Kotek said. “When I needed help refinancing and working on my house, my credit union was there for me.”
“Being there” for members and communities is what the Credit Union Movement is all about, as Stang noted in his remarks to advocates.
“If credit unions didn’t exist in Oregon, there would be a sucking sound, if you will, because there’d be a vacuum without all you do in your communities.”
Editor’s Note: Please visit your Association’s Facebook photo album from Oregon Credit Union Day at the Capitol.