What Is It About Credit Unions?

What Is It About Credit Unions? Cliff Rosenthal The former Director and CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions discusses the Credit Union Membership Access Act, and its implications for the community development credit union movement.   Credit unions are the biggest segment of the cooperative movement—110 million members, more than a trillion dollars in combined assets. Yet most surveys show that only a minority of credit union members actually know their financial institution is a cooperative, and what that means—such as one member, one vote; unpaid board of directors; nonprofit—but not charities; no federal taxes. Of the 5,600 credit unions in the United States today, a small portion have an explicit mission of empowering low-income and minority people. In New York City, we have some of the best examples—the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union,  Neighborhood Trust FCU in Washington Heights, Brooklyn Cooperative FCU headquartered in Bushwick, and about a dozen more, including some longstanding credit unions in African American churches. They’re known as community development credit unions (CDCUs). Survival is always a challenge for […]

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Snapshot: Samira Rajan

CEO, Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union How did you get into this work? I had been interested in issues around the distribution of wealth since undergrad when I studied economics. It seemed that the banking system, given the ability of banks to determine where investment flows, had a central role in determining that distribution. After undergrad I worked at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, thinking that helping to determine banking regulation would be a good path towards ensuring more equitable banking policy. While I was in graduate school, however, my advisor suggested that spending some time in banking at the street level would be quite useful in seeing what truly affects economic growth. So after I graduated, I volunteered at a start-up credit union not far from my home in Queens, New York. I ended up being an Americorp*VISTA and thought I would be there no more than a year, and then return to policy and regulation. But I ended up loving it!  First, as a start-up business, you have to do everything, wear all hats, and that […]

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Snapshot: Carlos Cano

Carlos Cano Program Manager of Worker Cooperatives, Urban Upbound How did you get into this work? Back in 2014, Urban Upbound began the process of developing a worker cooperative in Astoria Houses, a NYCHA development in Western Queens. I was asked to lead the project in late 2015. I had been working with another program that also served the Astoria Houses community and I had developed strong ties to it. That, in addition to my background in marketing and operations proved key as the program grew. We have launched two worker cooperatives (OnPoint Security and OSHA Solutions) and a third, Paw Partners is almost there. We are very happy and excited for them!   What does ‘solidarity economy’ mean to you? I see it as a market system in which actors’ decisions are not based solely on what is ‘best’ for themselves, usually with making/saving money as the main criteria, but are rather based on whether they create the most possible value in society. It’s a system built not around the lone individual but instead the inextricable relationship between a […]

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Credit Union Sues Trump Administration

On December 5, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union—a community development credit union and CEANYC member—filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and Michael Mulvaney for their takeover of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB was created in 2010 with the Dodd-Frank Act and exists to make sure that citizens and consumers are treated fairly by banks, lenders, and other financial companies. It is the clearinghouse for complaints and allows for transparency amongst consumers around which companies exploit their consumer bases and how. The CFPB also provides answers to common questions consumers have, an essential service in an unnecessarily complicated structure. Confused about how your auto loan will effect your credit? Want tips on how to engage your children in learning about money and savings? Being called non-stop by a debt collector and curious about the legal limitations you have a right to? The CFPB can and does answer those questions for consumers. Despite all this, Michael Mulvaney, Trump’s illegally appointed new head of the CFPB has referred to the agency as a “sad, sick joke.” […]

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Snapshot: Frank Cetera

Business Advisor, N Y Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College 1. What is your title/organization/job description? Certified Business Advisor, NY Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College.  The SBDC network is nationwide, with 23 regional centers in New York.  We provide free and confidential business mentoring, advisement, and analysis for the public, funded through the SUNY system and the SBA.  I implemented cooperative business development programming within the SBDC in 2012 with organizing and hosting the first Upstate Cooperative Summit day-long event in Syracuse, followed up with a second in 2013, and then embarked on the creation of the statewide NY Cooperative Network (NYCN) project with a steering committee formed out of the Summit events. I am fortunate in this employment position to also be a union steward for Professional Administrators on campus as part of the NYSUT OCCFTA Local 1845, plus delegate to the Greater Syracuse Area Labor Council. Unions and cooperatives are a natural mix.  I use my skills and experience to try and better local politics and create a dignified city for everyone too, […]

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