Many recent diaries and comments have covered or celebrated the removal of funds from large banks and their transfer to smaller, more local financial institutions, primarily credit unions. I have been unable to participate in this massive funds transfer only because all of our savings, checking, mortgage, loans and MC/VISA have been at our credit union for years. Sincere congratulations and thanks to those who have made the move more recently in response to OWS!
The reason the overwhelming majority (nothing's ever 100%) of credit unions are the kind of place you'd want to put your money in, borrow from or otherwise do business with, is that they are cooperatives., a fact which has not been mentioned very often by diarists posting about the dramatic growth in membership and deposits in the past few weeks.
So, I thought I'd do a diary about what co-ops, credit unions included, are...
Disclosure of biases:
There are five (5) co-op memberships in our two (2) person household.
I grew up in a neighborhood in the Bronx which is the nation's oldest housing cooperative,The Amalgamated
We get almost all our groceries at a co-op, including this apple (...pause...)
I have been employed by an electric co-op for sixteen (16) years and served on it's board before that.
The Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, founded in 1844, was the first modern cooperative:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, founded in 1844, was an early consumer co-operative, and the first to pay a patronage dividend, forming the basis for the modern co-operative movement.  Although other cooperatives preceded them, the Rochdale Pioneers' co-operative became the prototype for societies in Great Britain. The Rochdale Pioneers are most famous for designing the Rochdale Principles, a set of principles of co-operation that provide the foundation for the principles on which co-ops around the world operate to this day. The model the Rochdale Pioneers used is a focus of study within Co-operative economics.
The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was a group of 28 weavers and other artisans in Rochdale, England, that was formed in 1844. As the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution was forcing more and more skilled workers into poverty, these tradesmen decided to band together to open their own store selling food items they could not otherwise afford. With lessons from prior failed attempts at co-operation in mind, they designed the now famous Rochdale Principles, and over a period of four months they struggled to pool together one pound sterling per person for a total of 28 pounds of capital. On 21 December 1844, they opened their store with a very meager selection of butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and a few candles. Within three months, they expanded their selection to include tea and tobacco, and they were soon known for providing high quality, unadulterated goods. Ten years later, the British co-operative movement had grown to nearly 1,000 co-operatives.
Cooperatives of all kinds adhere to seven basic principles, which are an updated version of the principles established by the Rochdale Pioneers. I have these on the bulletin board by my desk. They truly guide cooperatives nationally and internationally.
What is a cooperative?
A cooperative is an organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those who use its services.
Co-ops value self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of our founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The Seven Co-op Principals
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative, At least part of that capital is usually the common property pf the cooperative/ Member usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by their membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, Training, and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public—particularly young people and opinion leaders—about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6th Principle: Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional, and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Cooperatives are a major force in our economy, in energy, finance, agriculture, healthy foods and other areas. There are different types of co-ops formed for different purposes:
from website of National Cooperative Business Association
Types of Cooperatives
Consumer Cooperatives—Consumer cooperatives are owned by the people who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative. They sell consumer goods such as food and outdoors equipment. They provide housing, electricity and telecommunications. And they offer financial (credit unions), healthcare, childcare and funeral services. Almost any consumer needs can be met by a cooperative.
Producer Cooperatives—Producer cooperatives are owned by people who produce similar types of products-by farmers who grow crops, raise cattle, milk cows, or by craftsmen and artisans. By banding together, they leverage greater bargaining power with buyers. They also combine resources to more effectively market and brand their products, improving the incomes of their members.
Worker Cooperatives—Worker cooperatives are owned and governed by the employees of the business. They operate in all sectors of the economy and provide workers with both employment and ownership opportunities. Examples include employee-owned food stores, processing companies, restaurants, taxicab companies, sewing companies, timber processors and light and heavy industry.
Purchasing/Shared Services Cooperatives—Purchasing and shared services cooperatives are owned and governed by independent business owners, small municipalities and, in some cases, state governments that band together to enhance their purchasing power, lowering their costs and improving their competitiveness and ability to provide quality services. They operate in all sectors of the economy.
There are three hundred and fifty million (350,000,000) co-op memberships in the United States! Co-ops play a major role in our economy, as producers, sellers, employers, taxpayers. The statistics and impacts are contained in a major study commissioned by the National Cooperative Business Association.
So why are credit unions more likely to be on the side of the 99%? It's no accident. Somewhere at each credit union, they probably have a copy of those Seven Cooperative Principles posted on the wall, just like I do at my job.
If you need help finding a credit union, try this link.
And finally, this just about sums it up: