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Sabine Chapter Hosts CU: ROAR Training at Meeting in Beaumont
Thursday, April 23, 2015 6:50 AM

Silence is a political stance. If elected officials don’t hear from credit unions, they assume credit unions don’t care. Cornerstone Grassroots and Political Director April Krause delivered that message to a credit union audience at a recent Sabine Chapter meeting with a focus on advocacy and CU: ROAR training.

Krause worked for the Texas Credit Union League for five years before moving on to Texas Telcom Credit Union in Dallas as its operations manager. At the time, the credit union had $35 million in assets. 

"While I was at the League," Krause said, "I knew advocacy was important, but I didn’t really get it until I went to the credit union. In a small credit union, you have to wear many hats, and every 10 minutes you’re putting on a different hat! I realized how new regulations and laws could affect our operations and, in turn, change the way we would be able to assist our members. That was when I actually understood what People Helping People meant and what the credit union philosophy was all about."

Krause gave a legislative update for Texas and introduced the CU: ROAR program, explaining why it's important for credit unions to be actively engaged with state and federally elected officials and how the CU: ROAR program can play a vital role in furthering the aims of the credit union movement.

"The Sabine Chapter has done an excellent job building a relationship with their new congressman, Dr. Brian Babin," Krause said. "Props to David Meaux with Sabine FCU."

Krause noted it's a good idea to get ahead of things. "When you develop ongoing relationships with your lawmakers now, that connection becomes a huge advantage later when credit unions need help with critical matters. When they know you already and what you're all about, they're much more inclined to help."

"Political involvement is critical to the ongoing survival of the credit union industry," said Cornerstone Chairman of the Board Kenny Harrington, who was also in attendance. "Engagement by credit unions at any level, whether through CU: ROAR, PAC contributions, or letter writing, will help to insure the success of the movement."

Other credit union leaders attending the meeting agreed. "The routine engagement of our politicians by ourselves and our trade representatives at least gives us a foothold in each of the states and nationally, so that we can have a voice at the table when the need arises," said Mobiloil Credit Union CEO Bob Hamer. "This is significant to survival of our credit unions as well as our jobs."

During the meeting, Krause covered the logistics of CU: ROAR, which stands for Credit Unions: Ready, Organize, Activate, Respond, and its three components: the ROAR action platform, Project Zip Code, and the PAC.

To fully participate in PAC, which is vital to political engagement, credit unions are assigned a PAC goal at the beginning of each year. The standard is $30 a year per fulltime employee and $10 a year per part-timer. Broken down, that's $1.15 every two weeks from their paychecks. For part-timers, a $10 per year goal would amount to $0.39 every two weeks.

It's a simple trade-off, Krause said. If you can give up one small guilty pleasure per week, like a $1.30 candy bar, a $1 bottle of soda or water, or a $1.75-$4.65 cup of coffee, you can knock out a PAC contribution just as easily—and painlessly. "It takes a village to make a movement," Krause said. "Everybody can contribute a barely noticeable amount toward the bigger goal, and it will make a huge difference. Money talks to politicians."

Hamer echoes Krause's sentiment. "There is a persistent need to keep our issues front and center through every possible means," he said, "so that over time our issues are not something new to the changing individuals who can affect the fate of our industry."

"If we can get all credit unions politically engaged by getting to know their lawmakers," Krause said, "we will become proactive instead of reactive."