Threatened With Job Losses, Striking Workers Return

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Striking workers at Madison County FCU, faced with a deadline to return to work or lose their jobs, ended their four-week picket after agreeing to federal mediation, union representatives were still threatening to "shut the place down."

Cynthia Springer, an attorney representing the credit union, said all employees were back to work and the two parties agreed to federal mediation. "The branches are now open and are fully operational, with normal working hours," she said.

But the return to work was filled with turmoil as employees, who were called on to sign agreements they had returned to work unconditionally, found their jobs had been changed, and some full-timers had been replaced by part- time workers who had crossed the picket lines. This prompted officials with the Office and Professional International Union, Local 1 to threaten retaliation against the management of the $52-millionCU.

"We've just about lost all faith that they can get this thing resolved," said James Hensley, chief negotiator for the union. Hensely said they were going forward last week with plans to urge several unions and their members who sponsor Madison County FCU to pull their deposits from the credit union and to pay off loans and have them renewed at two other local credit unions whose workers are also represented by the OPIEU.

"We're going to hit them where it hurts and shut the place down. We have no other choice," he said. "If they want to be a union credit union, they ought to have more respect for the union."

Hensley repeated charges that the credit union was trying to break the union, the same union that was voted out of CUNA CU in Madison, Wis., last September. "They're trying to bust this union. Plain and simple," he said.

But Springer, an attorney with Indianapolis-based Baker & Daniels, which specializes in representing management in labor disputes, denied the charge. When asked if the goal was to break the union, she answered, "no."

The two sides remain far apart on most of the major issues, including pay, seniority, retirement, health insurance, and outsourcing. The most recent offer by the credit union called for 3% annual raises for the three years of a contract, among other things. Hensely said that would still leave the credit union's employees far behind other area credit unions represented by the OPIEU, in terms of pay.

The union represents 27 workers at the credit union. Springer said a mediation session has yet to be scheduled.

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