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News Now

CU System
NCUF grant will help union workers avoid job losses
SPOKANE, Wash.(10/20/08)--To help union workers learn new skills and avoid job losses, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has approved an Innovation Grant of $20,000 to The Union CU. This grant aims to expand The Union CU’s “Step-Up Program” to more than 500 local labor unions representing 549,000 workers. “To our knowledge, this innovative program is the first to address workforce development before early intervention,” said The Union CU CEO Demaris Krummel. “The Step-Up Program helps workers access higher education, develop new skills, and take the next step in life: transitioning their education and skills with the changing economy to proactively avoid job displacement and find new career opportunities.” Krummel revealed that “the staff and board of The Union Credit Union are inspired by NCUF’s REAL Solutions program. The concept of our program stems from best practices established by REAL Solutions and Ed Filene’s revolutionary idea to bring the first financial cooperative to the U.S. to serve his employees.” The Step-Up Program employs two strategies consistent with the deployment of REAL Solutions:
* Delivering high-quality financial education to people of modest means. Krummel explained how by leveraging The Union CU’s partnerships with unions, the Step-Up Program reaches “working people at their place of employment to help union members achieve financial independence. Union members learn about budgeting and saving, how to increase credit scores, retirement planning, the truth about payday lenders and credit card debt…and much more. Financial education at the workplace can influence behavior over a lifetime of spending and saving.” * Delivering innovative financial products and services to people of modest means. The Union CU provides unique “Step-Up Loans” at members’ workplaces and in union halls. These loans help potentially displaced workers finance continuing education and skills transition without using costly credit cards. “This innovative product deployment and affordable service approach attracts new credit union members,” Krummel observed, “while addressing the real needs of working people, the union community, and the American economy.”
America’s 15.3 million unionized workers account for 12% of the total U.S. workforce. Washington is the only state where union membership has grown throughout this century, where 2.7 million unionized workers account for 20% of Washington’s workforce. “Trade union members specifically have difficulty obtaining loans,” Krummel related. “They typically have multiple employers in a short period of time, which labels them as ‘high-risk’ borrowers and makes completing loan applications difficult. “The trend of merging credit unions with union select employee groups (SEGs) into community chartered credit unions unintentionally leaves union workers underserved. Union leaders and The Union Credit Union understand this and can fulfill this need by taking education and affordable loans to the workplace.” Krummel suggested that the Step-Up Program “can be replicated by any credit union serving union members or workplace SEGs. It’s an innovative solution to the needs of working Americans in the rapidly changing economy.” This is the third of 14 Innovation Grants to be approved by NCUF in 2008 (News Now Oct. 16).
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