Rekindling of the Cooperative Spirit

1/9/2015 1:32:03 PM

By Jay Murray, CEO, Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU

For more than 100 years, in the United States, financial cooperatives, otherwise known as credit unions, have been serving people as member-owned institutions, democratically controlled by its members, and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members

Before credit unions existed in the U.S., many ordinary American workers did not have access to loans when they needed them and fell victim to usury and loan sharks.  Along would come Edward Filene, an American businessman and philanthropist, and Roy Bergengren, an American attorney, who would partner to develop the credit union movement in the U.S.

In a speech in California, in 1936, Filene summed up his view this way.  “What is needed is that the American masses shall learn the art of constructive self-government in this machine age – in this age in which life is no longer organized on a small community pattern but in which all Americans are more or less dependent upon what all other Americans are doing.”  Filene also believed in the intrinsic capability of ordinary people to improve their own condition, given “good information and the discipline to use it effectively.”

When you hear the story of Edward Filene and Roy Bergengren, we see a country, in 1936, that mirrors the challenges of all people in 2015. We still have "loan sharks" and providers of consumer services who do not have the best interest, of the people, in mind.  People still need to help each other and to remain independent and improve their own condition.  People still need good financial information and to learn ways to be thrifty.  In my opinion, credit unions are very relevant in today’s world.  Credit unions are different from other financial services providers.

So, why do most American consumers not know this story? 

Are we evangelizing and delivering the message with the same passion of Filene and Bergengren? 

According to Wikipedia, Bergengren travelled the country and attended the meetings of credit union organizers. Bergengren appeared before state legislators and recruited volunteer organizers. He was a gifted orator and gave passionate speeches.  He once stated, “The real job of a credit union is to prove, in modest measure, the practicality of the brotherhood of man.”

It’s time to Rekindle the Cooperative Spirit of our movement.  There is no greater time, than now, to tell the story of how a member owned, democratically controlled, financial cooperative, known as a credit union, can help people become financially healthier and wealthier. Credit union members (and soon to be members), both young and old, are facing a difficult financial pathway to their "golden years". 

A “movement” is a group of people working together to advance their cause.  If you are a believer in this great “cause”, we call the credit union movement, I encourage you to join us. The people who have joined the Rekindle movement have a great desire to see the credit union movement preserved in the United States.  Edward Filene once said, "The credit Union movement..It is a great movement, worthy of great deeds, deserving of great loyalty". 

If you would like to join us, please go to our home page at and tell us your story.


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