A strike took place today outside of CUNA Mutual Group as members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 39 picketed over what they call unfair labor practices from their employer.
The strike took place between 7:00 am-6:00 pm. A few hundred circled the building in shifts on Mineral Point Road as strikers could be seen marching and chanting through the perimeter of CUNA Mutual Group’s headquarters while passersby could be heard honking to show support.
The strike came as a result of what OPEIU Local 39 have called unfair labor practices and a refusal to negotiate a fair contract in good faith with the union. Employees represented by OPEIU Local 39 at CUNA Mutual Group have been working for over 400 days without a contract. Negotiation efforts have been attempted since February 2022.
The union represents over 450 employees at CUNA Mutual Group in professional, technical and clerical positions. A hot point for strikers comes at the cutting of benefits despite CUNA Mutual Group taking in a record $5.2 billion in revenue in 2022.
Strikers like Mark Anderson are not necessarily concerned about the wage aspects in regard to the strike, but want fair benefits for current and future employees – the same benefits that he has.
“I’m here in support of fairness for Joe in particular who has been completely shafted by this situation, but also to protect the next person who gets hired and CUNA Mutual deserves a pension as much as I do. I’m here for them,” Anderson said, referring to Joe Evica, the OPEIU union steward who was recently fired. “I’m here for my friends who live in other parts of the country now who don’t have access to our great local health care plan. The high deductible plan that is available to them just simply is not as good and we’re fighting for that.”
CUNA Mutual Group has beefed up security in anticipation of the strike. Anderson said he saw more security guards today than he’s ever seen in his time working there in addition to freshly placed no trespassing signs with a white line painted along the property.
“I definitely have noticed a presence that is not normally here. I mean, until the pandemic, I worked in that building over there every day and you never saw a security guard except maybe waving you to the entrance of the parking garage,” Anderson said.
Strikers have been showing their disappointment in CUNA Mutual Group’s bargaining efforts in contract negotiations. Strikers feel that the proposed changes by CUNA Mutual Group are not symbolic of a company that has reported taking in record profits.
“I’m disappointed that a company that has been raking in record profits over the last several years comes to the bargaining table with an offer to cut employee benefits, to cut the pension plan, to cut the health care plan,” Paul Zumhagen-Kraus said. “Those are things that you bring to the bargaining table.”
It is currently unclear as to how negotiating efforts are going or when striking will end.
CUNA Mutual Group had canceled meetings to negotiate earlier this week. OPEIU members say they have attempted to be flexible, offering a large range of meeting dates prior to the strike to no avail. CUNA Mutual Group intends to meet later in the month with the union, according to CUNA Mutual Group media and reputation consultant Barclay Pollak.
CUNA Mutual Group plans to release a statement on today’s protests soon.
CUNA Mutual is a funder of 365 Media Foundation, the nonprofit organization that publishes Blueprint365.