In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the bankers’ 1990 lawsuit in favor of the North Carolina bankers, agreeing that the NCUA had misinterpreted the Federal Credit Union Act by allowing some credit unions to expand beyond their original charter.
If the story ended there, the repercussions of this decision would have caused great hardship for credit unions who may have been forced to expel members and cut their field of membership back to original charters … the only hope was to change the law. Credit union supporters came out of the woodwork to flood Capitol Hill with letters, calls, e-mails, faxes, and visits. With only one week’s notice, more than 6,500 credit union members and small business leaders from all 50 states rallied on Capitol Hill. Ten senators and representatives promised passage of the law before August recess.
True to their word, HR 1151 was passed in both the House and Senate in a nearly unprecedented vote, (only 2 “nay votes” in the Senate and fewer than 10 in the House), and President Bill Clinton signed the Credit Union Membership Access Act into law on August 5, 1998.
The past 75 years have brought major changes and many victories for the credit union movement. But, today, we still need to be vigilant in protecting the future of credit unions and the idea of cooperative credit. The American Bankers’ Association continues to agitate in the courts against field of membership expansions and the recent woes of the financial system make it clear that credit unions need to make sure that any legislative reform does not destroy the underpinnings of our movement. It is up to all of us to perpetuate credit unions into the future.
In March 2010, there were 7,600 credit unions in the United States with more than 91.4 million members. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this movement! We need to actively tell our story and remaining true to the philosophies on which we were founded.
For more information about other periods of credit union history, click on the links below