Credit Unions in the Co-op Movement

UMassFiveLogoOur friends at UMassFive College Credit Union make a huge difference in our local economy, and they are terrific supporters of co-ops like ours. Below Manager of Member Outreach Sean Capaloff-Jones shares a few thoughts on co-op identity and credit unions.

By Sean Capaloff-Jones

As many of my generation can attest, coming of age in the turn of the century has been tough. There has been an increase in many people’s sense of insecurity since September 11, 2001. And the Great Recession was a traumatic experience for anyone who, like me, was expected to enter one of the worst job markets the United States has ever experienced.

I became a convert of co-ops while in college, when I was working for a student-run business. However, it was after the greed-fueled economic meltdown of 2008 that I became thoroughly convinced that a true recovery with a sustainable living wage would not be achieved until cooperatives took up a much larger amount of the economic pie then they currently do.

Today, I work in an outreach position for UMassFive, and attribute much of my professional success to the experiences I was able to gain working in a worker co-op. That’s why it is so important to me when I am able to work on projects with worker co-operatives.

Yes, I feel a sense of personal fulfillment as I continue supporting the sector that nurtured me and gave me purpose as a college student—but it’s more than that. Principle Six of the Rochdale Principles, which most modern cooperatives attempt to follow, encourages cooperation amongst cooperatives.

locally_grown_sshirtTo me, each time we come together, we find new ways to interact and strengthen the philosophy of co-ops, and in so doing, we promote not only our businesses, but also our reason for existing. 

The basic premise that unites all cooperatives is that power should not be based on who has the highest concentration of wealth, but on the needs of the community it serves. While in traditional business structures, owners can benefit when consumers and workers are hurt, in a cooperative business structure, all parties succeed or fail together.

Whether worker-owned or consumer-owned, there is no upside to harming consumers, or in failing to provide a positive environment for employees. Cooperatives foster democracy.

I don’t want to make this sound like a love fest. Any cooperator understands that there are plenty of real roadblocks between fostering inter-sector growth. However, my inter-sector experiences with TESA and many other cooperatives have been valuable and I have received at least as much as I have given in these endeavors. Although it may not be easy, the rewards of cross-sector collaboration in the cooperative movement are well worth the effort.

UMassFive College Credit Union is an independent not-for-profit cooperative financial institution, owned by and operated exclusively for the benefit of their members. Members include employees, students, and family members of the University of Massachusetts and the Five College systems. They also serve several smaller local educational and service organizations. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Image credit: UMassFive Credit Union

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