CUNA Mutual Group (CMG) has a robust Internship program that, over the years, has led to a large number of new-hires right out of college. One of these was a woman named Idah Karonga. Born in Zimbabwe, Idah was here on a student visa when she became an intern in 2015. When she graduated the next year, she was hired back full-time and became an important part of the Applications Architecture team.
But Idah's student status ran out. The company applied for the US Green Card Lottery, a program that is designed to provide employment based immigrant visas, through a lottery system, to countries (such as Zimbabwe) that have low immigration rates into the US. In Idah's case, CMG applied for her "Green Card" but the odds are not good: only a few thousand are selected out of tens of thousands of applicants. That first year, Idah's application didn't get selected.
Idah wasn't done. She went back to school for her Master's degree in Computer Science. Meanwhile, CUNA Mutual and the Union tried to find a way to hold her job for her. Michael Pionke, the Chief Steward at the time, came up with the idea to use a work status called Recall. This is usually applied to laid-off workers to give them an opportunity to return, but he thought it could be applied in Idah's case as well.
Mike worked with her manager's and with CMG's HR department. Everyone raved about Idah's work and wanted to find a way to keep her and HR agreed that the Recall status could be applied. "But, what has surprised me the most," Idah told us, "is how everybody has been really understanding and willing to help me. The manager, the company, and the union. I was surprised that the union was so understanding, and they were willing to do a lot to help me. They were also super-flexible. It was like I had a whole team on my side."
The Recall status has allowed Idah to work part time during the school year and full-time during the summer and this last summer, the company submitted her application again. This time, against very long odds, Idah's application was selected! She's still waiting on processing (a separate step) but she's that much closer to becoming a full-time member of Local 39 and employee of CUNA Mutual Group!
When the company and the Union work together, great things can happen, sometimes for whole departments, and sometimes for just one worker. Idah's situation is unique and required creativity on the part of the Chief Steward to find a solution. The Union puts that kind of ingenuity behind every situation brought to its attention, striving to do whatever they can within the bounds of the contract to help members and the company thrive.