Union Leaders Threaten CU's Viability In Ongoing Strike

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Tensions increased between management at Madison County FCU and the Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 1, as the union's workers braved year-end cold and blustery snowstorms in the third week of their picket.

The striking workers were joined on the picket lines by sympathetic members of several unions sponsoring the credit union representing municipal employees, police and firefighters, teachers, and auto workers.

Union representatives threatened to encourage unions with the credit union and their members to pull deposits and loans from the $55-million credit union if management goes through with its threat to replace all striking workers.

James Hensley, chief negotiator for the local, said he has agreements with two local credit unions also represented by the OFEIU to accept the deposits and loans of the unions and their members in exchange for hiring some of the displaced workers.

"We hate to do this because it's going to destroy that credit union. But if they're going to destroy the union and fire the workers we definitely will do it," said Hensley.

Some Replacements Hired

CU representatives said earlier they have hired permanent replacements for several of the striking workers and will replace all of the 27 strikers if they do not come to a settlement.

Credit union officials could not be reached for comment last week.

Still, Hensley described a mood change in bargaining sessions held last week, including a brief meeting New Year's Eve, which he attributed to the absence of an Indianapolis labor attorney whose firm specializes in hard-line negotiating tactics (CU Journal, Dec. 23).

"We're making some progress because we finally got the board involved in the negotiations. We got the attorney out who's trying to break the union," he said.

"We agreed to some minor things and we're pretty close on some other minor things," said Hensley. "But these are all things we should have been talking about six months ago."

"Hopefully, they'll hold up on hiring replacements," he added.

The workers went out on strike three weeks ago after rejecting the credit union's final contract offer, which was submitted five months before.

That contract called for 3% raises for each of its three years and increased employee contributions on health insurance, among other things.

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