Thousands of credit union supporters descended upon the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 1998 to urge Congress to pass HR 1151--the Credit Union Membership Access Act--in what is considered a textbook case of grassroots political action. (Photo provided by CUNA)
The Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1998--known as HR 1151--marked its 15th year milestone yesterday, a testament to the grassroots advocacy power of credit union people throughout the U.S.
Fifteen years after its passage, credit unions are again applying lessons they learned about grassroots operations then to another battle--to preserve credit unions' tax-exempt status. Many of the advocacy lessons being used today were learned in the 1998 battle, which was considered a "textbook case" of political action.
HR 1151, which was co-sponsored by former U.S. Reps. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), authorized multiple-group chartering for federal credit unions and gave 63 million working Americans--many of them working for small businesses--the ability to save and borrow at a credit union. It was signed by President Bill Clinton on Aug. 7, 1998.
The law was the culmination of a grassroots response to a five to four decision on Feb. 25, 1998, by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld an appeals court decision to prohibit federal credit unions from taking in members unrelated to their "core" membership group and common bond. By enacting HR 1151, Congress overturned the Supreme Court decision.