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35 Years of Finance for the People!
This September marks 35 years since our credit union’s organizing committee was formed and took the first steps toward creating Cooperative Federal! The first meeting at a small home on Westcott Street, drew eleven interested community activists. Of this initial group, nine continued on to launch a seven-month-long organizing campaign and they became the credit union’s first board of directors.
Drawn from the East Side and South Side, Cooperative Federal’s founders, mostly “baby boom” generation activists, learned organizing skills through participation in the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the student and anti-war movements, and other social justice movements of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. The credit union was envisioned as a vehicle for meeting community financial needs in urban residential neighborhoods, and for deploying collective savings positively and responsibly.
Our founders were specifically concerned with divesting from businesses that supported the Apartheid system of racial oppression in South Africa; providing fair and friendly financial services designed by and for people of modest means; and serving those that conventional banks fail to serve:
- Women, who at the time were entering the workforce in record numbers
- People facing the effects of present or past discrimination (particularly African Americans, American Indians, and the LGBT community)
- Very small businesses
- Unconventional businesses and organizations such as cooperatives, community groups, and nonprofits
- Families with little wealth and low income
- Part-time workers including many women, artists, musicians, youth, and those coping with underemployment.
In addition, the founders demanded that the credit union be sound, fiscally responsible, and accountable. Such a credit union, they hoped, would help build a foundation for a community-based economy and gain a measure of independence from a distant and unresponsive global economy.