Kitchen Offer Would Have FundedUnion-Busting Firm

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MADISON, Wis. - (08/04/04) -- Funds offered by CUNA Mutual Group'sCEO Michael Kitchen to an employee group seeking to break-away fromthe company's union were to have gone to hire a law firm thathelped break the same union at CUNA CU two years ago. Kitchen wasfired this week after he told the CUNA Mutual Board he offered$1,000 to help employees hire an advisor to explore options to thecurrent employees union, the Office and Professional EmployeesInternational Union, Local 39. The money was to be used as aretainer to hire the Madison firm of Michael Best & Friedrich,which represented CUNA CU during a successful employee vote todecertify the same union, the OPEIU, in November 2002, sources toldThe Credit Union Journal. The firm touts its success in assistingthe union decertification on its website. Kitchen told The CreditUnion Journal Tuesday it was not his intention to break-up theunion but to help some employees explore their options. "I nevertried to bust the union," he insisted. After declining Kitchen'soffer, the group of employees hired the firm and its partner, TomGodar, the same lawyer who represented CUNA CU during the uniondecertification. Employees in CUNA Mutual's IT department,frustrated about the current contract negotiations and the failureto reach an agreement, have been circulating emails discussingvarious options, including a decertification vote or breaking awayto form their own union. "We're not looking at decertificationright now, although it is an option," said Dennis Krull, one of theleaders of the IT group, who confirmed the hiring of Michael Best& Friedrich.

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