Sharing the legacy of Edward Filene
A Message from the President
On behalf of Local 39 Executive Board and staff, I want to wish fellow members and your families a safe and happy holiday season. I also want to thank all of you for the work you do every day helping our union achieve our collective goal of creating work environments where people are valued for who they are and properly rewarded for what they do.

At this time of year, it’s appropriate to look back, take stock in our lives and show some appreciation and gratitude to all the folks who may have helped us along the way. In that spirit, I want to go way back and thank Edward Filene.

Folks outside of our CUNA Mutual or CUNA Inc. units might not recognize the name Edward Filene, but when it comes to Unions his legacy has relevance to us all. By most accounts, Edward Filene is considered the founder of the Credit Union movement. But long before his work advocating Credit Unions over other financial institutions began, he’d already gained a reputation as being a socially minded, progressive entrepreneur.

As co-owner of “Filene’s” – a family owned “bargain basement” clothing store – he helped implement an innovative business model that catered not to well-to-do Bostonians but to that city’s working class. For a time that even included a unique mark-down strategy that for the store’s most patient customers resulted in getting unsold merchandise for free. For years the store didn’t break even, but over time its sales grew to rival such retail giants as Macy’s and Marshall Fields.

Filene’s progressive principles extended to his employees and the broader community as well. In 1889, nearly five decades before the Wagner Act gave workers the right to organize, Filene chartered the Filene Cooperative Association (FCA) as a separate, employee-run organization that allowed the store’s workers to advocate for better working conditions. And in 1919 he founded The Co-operative League, now known as The Century Foundation, to advance a host of progressive domestic and foreign policy issues.

The FCA gave workers greater participation in and control over business operations, which Filene believed increased both productivity and profit. By the 1890s, the store had established a minimum wage while its workers were receiving sick-leave and other benefits, as well as conducting meetings to discuss work related issues.

Today the Filene name graces both a conference room at the corporate office in Madison and Filene Research Institute, an organization dedicated to creating knowledge and developing strategies that will continue to move credit unions forward. But his spirit is perhaps best captured in the work of The Century Foundation, one of the oldest public policy organizations in the world, and a legacy to his commitment to social justice and commitment to workers’ rights.

It’s hard to find many Edward Filene’s in the corporate world today, certainly fewer who’d value their business enough to trust giving employees an autonomous voice at work. But Filene trusted his employees. That’s a rare gift today and a legacy worth celebrating – better yet, a story worth sharing this holiday season.
Dues Increase Effective 1/1/2020
OPEIU Local 39 is a self-sustaining, not-for-profit organization that exists for the betterment of its members. Your dues pay for:
  • expenses incurred in contract negotiations
  • servicing members
  • legal fees
  • organizing new members
  • communications
just to name a few in a very long list.

We don't pay dues merely as a return investment for financial gain (although, regular pay raises and industry-leading benefits are absolutely a result). Union members pay dues for the same reason civic, business, faith-based, cultural, and professional association members pay dues: it costs money to run an organization and, particularly in our case, it costs money to defend the best interests of the membership.

As other costs have gone up, so has the need too increase dues by $3.00 a month, or about 22 cents an hour. A great deal, considering all you get for it.
“Workplace Fissuring” harms workers, hurts unions
Outsourcing work to third party contractors has become common practice in the business world. On the surface it may seem to make sense for companies to off-load non-business-related overhead and labor costs. Over time that practice has crept into and become common in many businesses, including Local 39’s own CUNA Mutual Group, where a bargaining unit of once 1600 workers has been reduced to roughly 500 in large part because of it. In “The PRO Act and Workplace Fissuring, The Century Foundation contributor Charlotte Garden helps put a human face on what this means for workers and what role unions need to play in creating policies to protect workers regardless of occupation or professional status.
The PRO Act and Workplace Fissuring

For too many people, work means low pay, unpredictable hours, and nonexistent opportunities for advancement. A major reason for this dire situation is what David Weil has termed "workplace fissuring." Fissuring occurs when large companies devolve ...

Read more
Kickstarter proves why workers need unions regardless of occupation
A quick visit to the Kickstarter career page reveals why it’s a great place to work. From 25 vacation and four months parental leave to employer-paid health benefits and fresh produce from a rooftop garden, the company brags to prospects how its creativity, progressive vision and success is linked to the partnership it has with its employees. Amenities aside, this interview with Kickstarter employee Taylor Moore makes clear why even workers in IT need a union to give them the voice they deserve at work.
"A Union Is an Equalization of Power"

M Prince Photography / Flickr When US workers try to unionize, roughly a third of their employers engage in retaliatory firings. A union organizer today has a one-in-five to one-in-seven chance of losing their job while trying to secure the...

Read more