A Win for Democracy at Vermont Federal Credit Union!

by Matt Cropp

Note: These are my initial reflections of my experience of tonight’s Annual Meeting since, sadly, my video camera decided this would be a fine evening to crap out. Some things could slightly be out of order and omitted, so I will try to get my hands on the official minutes and link them here as soon as they become available.

I’ve been to the past four or five VFCU meetings, and this years was, by far, the most well attended. It was the 60th Anniversary celebration, so, instead of being at the DoubleTree it was at the Sheraton, and included a dinner for which close to 400 people RSVP’d. The meeting business began uneventfully, and the nominating committee presented the incumbent two candidates, who, as it was a non-competitive contest, were declared by the chair to have been elected by acclamation, to which a few people mentioned that they dissented from that statement.

The meeting then rolled around to new business, for which I raised my hand and made the proposal which our group of Vermont Federal members had developed. After noting that none of the assembled members had had any say in the “election” that’d just taken place, and that the nominating committees at other co-ops of which I am a member (such as City Market and the Intervale Community Farm) go to great lengths to recruit candidates and facilitate competitive elections, I proposed the following resolution:

“We, the assembled members of the Vermont Federal Credit Union, instruct the nominating committee to include on the 2014 Annual Meeting ballot all legally qualified candidates who have expressed an interest in serving on the Board of Directors, so as to ensure that members have a meaningful voice in the composition of the Board that represents them.”

The debate of the topic went on for close to an hour, and I’d have to see the minutes to remember all the points that were made, but the majority of comments seemed to be in favor of our resolution, including from many people who had never heard of our group but agreed with the point we were raising. One of the members of the nominating committee argued that they had picked the two most qualified candidates, who were the incumbents, to which I made the rejoinder that, if our credit union values democracy, the voices of all the members at the annual meeting should be part of that decision. Others raised points about how board accountability is impossible without competitive elections, and someone compared the credit union’s electoral process to that of the Chinese Communist Party.

Once the debate was closed, the chair, Spike Robinson, called for a voice vote, and, though the yeas sounded louder than the noes, he called a hand vote to be sure (all the directors, except for Eric Davis, voted against it), and the resolution passed with a healthy majority. At this point the CEO, Bernie Isabelle, stood up and basically made the argument that the resolution was non-binding because the NCUA (the regulator) would not allow it to be enacted, then Joe Bergeron (head of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions and the parliamentarian of the meeting) made this comment. A member in the back asked if CEO Isabelle’s position represented those of the board and the NCUA, and another member suggested that a third party, rather than the board, rule as to the legitimacy of the resolution. This was followed (although I might have the order slightly mixed up here) by a member making the point that, under Roberts Rules, as the issue had been voted on, there should be no more discussion of the topic.

There were a few other comments, including some in support of the board (one woman stuck out to me because she referred to the credit union as a ‘bank’ and made an aside about how it’s not a democracy), and another member spoke out in favor of the idea of the board actively encouraging diversity in its composition.

When this was done, the door prizes were announced, and the meeting adjourned. In all, it was a good day for economic democracy, and I’m looking forward to being able to vote for a competitive slate in 2014!

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One thought on “A Win for Democracy at Vermont Federal Credit Union!

  1. AbSoulutely fantastic!!!! best of good energy and wonderful karma to those who care for legitimate Democracy @ our local co~op! Damned fools that control against the voice of equal votes! ~AleSonder Ruhe

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