EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with comments from Lake Michigan Credit Union.
The union that successfully organized staff at a Lake Michigan Credit Union branch near Grand Rapids has filed for another election to represent staff at an office in Florida.
The Communications Workers of America’s petition to the National Labor Relations Board seeks an election for staff at LMCU’s Bonita Beach office in Bonita Springs, Fla., to decide on union representation.
In a letter today to LMCU CEO Sandra Jelinski, two workers at the Bonita Beach branch asked that LMCU voluntarily recognize the union by March 1. If Jelinski agrees, they would withdraw the NLRB petition for an election.
The Florida workers cite the same issues that led staff at the South Division branch in Wyoming to seek union representation late last year. These include concerns about what workers say are low staffing and low pay, according to an announcement from the Committee for Better Banks, a coalition of bank employees, advocacy groups and labor unions.
“The current staffing model does not support our development needs which include the ability to receive adequate training and the opportunity to grow. There are not enough people to support the traffic of our branch and to properly mentor our newly hired branch staff,” they wrote. “There is little-to-no room for flexibility when we need time off for health reasons or unforeseen life events because it causes our branch to be inadequately staffed. We are tired of shouldering these burdens while our concerns are repeatedly ignored. For these reasons, we would like additional compensation for having to work in understaffed branches.”
In a statement provided to MiBiz, LMCU offcials “strongly” denied the union’s allegations against the company, calling them “inaccurate, and unfounded.”
“At LMCU, we have long been focused on providing excellent employment and career opportunities with competitive wages and benefits in a welcoming work environment for all of our team members in Florida and Michigan,” the company stated.
“For the past 15 years, LMCU has been consistently recognized as one of the Best and Brightest companies to work for and in 2022 LMCU was a National Winner for the Best and Brightest Program in the United States,” the statement reads. ”We believe our employee-focused approach sets us apart. We take the concerns of our staff seriously, and we are committed to remaining an employer of choice throughout the banking and finance industry. We respect the rights of all employees to exercise their rights to organize, and we look forward to the next steps before the national labor relations board.”
A majority of workers at LMCU’s South Division Avenue branch in Wyoming voted by a close margin in January to unionize. The election covered 13 full-time and part-time tellers and member service representatives, according to the NLRB petition. The vote excluded supervisors, branch managers, assistant branch managers, clerical employees, professional employees, commercial loan and residential loan employees, and guards.
Soon after the vote, Ian Diaz — an organizer of the union drive — was fired. The CWA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB on Diaz’s behalf, claiming LMCU fired him in retaliation for the union drive and as an organizer of the Lake Michigan Credit Union Workers Alliance.
“My termination proves just how critical a union is for LMCU workers. LMCU’s move to terminate me was a weak attempt at a scare tactic targeting my colleagues and comes right out of the union-busting playbook. This is not the first time LMCU has singled me out for union organizing, and I am confident that the NLRB will recognize that and hold the credit union accountable for its illegal action,” Diaz, who worked at LMCU for five years, said in a Feb. 3 statement issued by the Committee for Better Banks.
LMCU in response denied the union’s claim.
“We respect the rights of employees to organize, and we look forward to a productive relationship with the union recently formed at one of our branches. Mr. Diaz is aware of the reasons for his dismissal, as detailed in the termination letter that was reviewed with him, and is able to share them if he elects to do so, but Lake Michigan Credit Union respects the privacy of our employees and does not comment on individual employee personnel matters,” the credit union said at the time. “LMCU is committed to complying with all state and federal laws, including the national labor relations act as well as all banking laws and regulations. Our members entrust us to protect their investments, and we expect every one of our employees to uphold the highest standards of compliance with all state and federal laws.”
The CWA has since filed a second unfair labor practice charge against the credit union, claiming last week that the former assistant manager at the South Division branch was fired for supporting the union.
LMCU is the largest credit based in Michigan with 67 branches, including 20 in markets on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The credit union at the end of 2022 had $11.9 billion in total assets, more than 459,000 members and more than 1,600 full- and part-time employees, according to a quarterly financial report to the National Credit Union Administration.
The credit union recorded $169.5 million in net income for 2022.