Topics in "About Women's Southwest": (text is below this list of topics)
MISSION STATEMENT*: We offer a dependable, democratic alternative to traditional financial institutions. By providing quality personal financial services, we encourage our members to achieve economic independence. We also stimulate the development of our community by investing money locally and providing volunteer services. Our members 1) share a common bond through membership groups, and 2) believe in the feminist principle of social, political, and economic equality.
* Per Women's Southwest FCU Board of Directors, 9/27/10 Board Meeting
IN GENERAL, HOW DO CREDIT UNIONS DIFFER FROM BANKS?
How banks work: if you have a savings account at a bank, the bank pays you interest. They also have to pay dividends to their stockholders. That's why they need to earn more from their fees, loans and investments than credit unions do. Banks are in business to make a profit. Their stockholders may or may not have accounts with the bank. A bank's depositors have no voice in the running of the bank.
The bank may pay very high salaries to their top executives, usually much higher than the salaries they pay to their tellers. Banks may pay those who serve on their board of directors. If a bank board member applies for a loan at the bank, she or he may receive favorable treatment.
Commercial banks make business loans; some banks make loans to other nations. Banks have more options in the types of loans and investments they can make; they are allowed to take more risks than credit unions are permitted to take.
How credit unions work: their members pool their savings. The savings are loaned out to other members of the credit union. Earnings from loans and investments pay operating expenses. Member/depositors share the profits via "dividends" added to their "share" (savings) accounts. There are no outside stockholders. Credit unions are profit-sharing cooperatives. That's why most credit unions can afford to charge lower loan rates, credit cards rates, and fees than banks do. For the same reason, most credit unions pay their depositors higher rates on savings accounts and certificates.
Most credit union tellers earn more than bank tellers do. Most credit union CEOs earn less than bank presidents do. Those who serve on a credit union's board of directors are volunteers. If a credit union board member applies for a loan at the credit union, she or he will face tighter scrutiny than a regular member of the credit union would. Credit unions operate under strict regulations and codes of conduct that preclude conflicts of interest.
Members of a credit union elect those who serve on the board of directors. Only those who are members of the credit union may run for office. Fewer credit unions than banks make business loans. No credit unions lend money to other nations. There are tighter restrictions on the types of loans and investments credit unions are allowed to make.
We urge you to support us and the other, larger credit unions that offer services--such as cash, on-line services, ATMs, and IRAs-- that we are too small to offer.
Savings Account Insurance: to learn more, click here
What's the difference between "federal" credit unions and other kinds? It's simple: ABC Federal Credit Union is regulated by a federal government agency, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). XYZ Credit Union is regulated by a state agency, such as the Department of Corporations in California.
Take this Quiz: *WHO IS A FEMINIST?
a. a woman
b. a person who believes in equal rights for women and men.
c. one who, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, fought for women's right to vote
d. someone who wears dresses and/or lots of make-up and looks "feminine"
(*Answer at bottom of page)
HERSTORY/BACKGROUND OF FEMINIST & WOMEN'S CREDIT UNIONS
IN NORTH AMERICA
For hundreds of years, women had a difficult time obtaining credit in their own names. Stock, Catch-22 reasons male loan officers gave women for denying them credit included:
Feminists found these "reasons" for denying women credit unfair and exasperating. They disliked investing their savings in institutions that engaged in such discriminatory practices. They decided to form lending institutions that would give women a chance to establish credit in their own names, institutions that would evaluate women's applications solely on the basis of their ability and willingness to repay. Around 1970, the first such credit union in the USA opened in Detroit, Michigan. It was called, simply, Feminist Federal Credit Union.
In 1972 Gloria Steinem, author, lecturer, and editor of Ms. magazine, addressed a crowd at a university near Dallas, Texas. Afterward, some local activists went up to Ms. Steinem and asked what she wanted them to do for the movement. She said, "Start a credit union". In 1974, they did. Women's Southwest Federal Credit Union (WSFCU) became the second feminist or women's credit union in the USA. By January of 1975 they had $6,000 in deposits. In honor of their 25th anniversary in 1999, Ms. Steinem came to Dallas to be our guest of honor. She waived her speaking fee. In her speech she thanked those who had founded WSFCU for having honored her request. She said that, even 25 years later, while women pay most of the bills, most of the wealth--the assets--are under the control of men. She urged feminists to deposit savings in feminist and women's credit unions in order to redress that imbalance.
In 1974, three women who had volunteered for Feminist Federal in Michigan met with some of California's "movers and shakers": In those days their organizations were known as: the Center for Women's Studies and Services [now the Center for Community Solutions], the San Diego chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and WomanCare Clinic (since merged with Planned Parenthood). Their first sponsors at that time also included the Feminist Women's Health Centers of California. On February 15th, 1975, in honor of Susan B. Anthony's Birthday, Congress granted Cal Feminist their charter. On that date they had only $35 in assets. On March 8, 1975, International Women's Day, they opened their doors, becoming the 7th such credit union in the nation. By March 31st, they we had around $8,000 in deposits. .
Later in 1975, a Women's Bank--a completely separate institution--opened in San Diego. At one point, they decided to remove the word "women" from their name. They were bought out by a bank in Orange County.
Through the end of the 1970s and the early 1980s, more feminist and women's credit cooperatives formed, until there were two dozen of them. The growth of such alternative financial institutions inspired Congress to pass the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). It was phased in over a two-year period in the mid-1970s. The feminist and women's credit unions educated their members so that they could learn their rights under the ECOA. In San Diego, NOW created the Women's Credit Alert for this very purpose. The Women's Credit Alert worked in concert with Cal Feminist to teach women their rights.
Of course, women were not the only oppressed groups who formed their own lending co-ops. The United Farm Workers (UFW) started a credit union. Unfortunately, UFW's credit union and 22 of the feminist/women's credit unions in the USA suffered similar fates, for similar reasons:
By 2008 there were only two feminist or women's CUs left in the 50 states: Cal Feminist & Women's Southwest, each with $1 million in assets. In mid-2008 their boards voted to combine their reserves, staff, and strengths. The determined, persistent, and tenacious women of the two co-ops worked through dozens and dozens of pages of correspondence, questions, denials, reversals, mixed messages, reconsiderations, and appeals through their federal regulator. Finally in late September 2009, the National Credit Union Administration tenatively approved their merger request. By October 20, 2009, 45% of the members of Cal Feminist had turned in their ballots. Over 99% of those who voted voted in favor of the merger. On 12/31/09 Women's Southwest FCU in Dallas became the "continuing" credit union." Cal Feminist in San Diego became the Pacific Coast Branch of Women's Southwest.
The combined credit unions share $2 million in assets and about 800 members.
For information on how to contact us, click on How To Reach Us
Note: Canada used to have three women's credit unions. Their remaining credit union is the largest feminist or women's credit union in North America: Ottawa Women's Credit Union/La Caisse Populaire des Femmes d'Ottawa
WHAT SETS CAL FEMINIST APART FROM OTHER CREDIT UNIONS?
2. Health Insurance referrals and Dental Plan referrals For details, click on Health Insurance
3. Ability to Conduct Business:
a. During Blackouts: The sun lights up 2/3 of our office. Supplies include: a hand crank radio & flashlight; candles; a manual typewriter; 3 x 5 cards; a battery-powered loan-payment calculator; paper forms with NCR or carbon copies; up-to-date printouts. Even when the power is off, our door is open. We can reply via postal mail. We can place outgoing calls. (Alas, when you phone us, we can't always hear the phone ring. If you call during open hours and we don't answer, and no machine answers, stop by our office if you can. Otherwise, wait about an hour and then call back. If you hear that a blackout will last longer than a day, send us a letter or a post card.)
b. Post-disaster: our office is on the first floor of a two-story building. In three different off-site location--one of them in another state--we store data we can use if we need to resume operations elsewhere. If we need to order a new PC, we can track transactions by hand, on paper forms, until it's ready. With only 500 members, this would be awkward but relatively simple. There are some distinct advantages to being small.
4. Beneficial inconvenience: we have only one location, short hours, a limit of two withdrawals per account per month, no cash, and no Automated Teller Machines. Several of our depositors have told us that they like our inconvenience: it makes it easier for them to hang onto their savings!
5. Unusually Strong PRIVACY POLICIES:
6. Safety & Soundness: Savings insurance is good to have. But we don't want you to need to rely on it. Here are a few of the extra precautions we take to honor the trust you place in us every time you make a deposit:
7. Informal, unintimidating atmosphere: since our inception, we've striven to dissolve the mystique surrounding money and credit. One way we've accomplished this is to create a relaxed atmosphere in our office. There are no teller lines: only desks and chairs. Our staffers dress casually; they kid around with our members; they endeavor earnestly to put financial terminology in everyday language. We encourage our members to ask questions. We also keep what they tell us about their personal finances confidential. There's a dish of candy in our lobby. We keep a box of tissues handy, just in case. We want out members to feel safe and welcome.
8. Socializing opportunities:
9. Environmental Efforts: While we're far from perfect, we try.
10. Selected Awards, Praise, & Recommendations:
11. Savings Simplifier Accounts: previous generations placed dollar bills in different envelopes to set them aside for specific purposes. But that practice is no longer safe. What to do?
If you open accounts at 10 different institutions, you'll receive ten different statements. Each institution may have different minimum balance requirements.
Enter Savings Simplifier Accounts. After you open your regular savings account at Cal Feminist, you may open up to 9 more "sub-accounts". Each one appears on the same statement. Each one has a minimum balance of only $50, with no recurring service charges ! Send us one regular check, money order, bill-pay, payroll deduction or electronic transfer per month, per pay period, or however you want to plan it. Let us know how you want the funds divided. For instance if you send us $200, you might direct us to put $100 in your estimated taxes account, $50 in your vacation fund, $25 in your holiday gift account, and $25 in your season ticket account.
12. Frugality: have you ever entered a bank lobby and winced at the thought of how much those marble columns or acres of plush carpeting cost? When you look at the fees and interest rates some institutions charge, it's easy to see where they get the money to afford such extravagance.
At Cal Feminist, we spend your money more carefully than we do our own. We shop for prices on almost everything. We pay modest rent for our office, and utilities are included. As we went to "press" our average monthly expense for our Internet Service Provider (ISP) was only $8.99. The software that was recommended to us to handle our savings, lending and bookkeeping transactions would have cost $21,000. We found some software that was nearly as good for $2,995. As we mentioned under Environmental Efforts above, many of the supplies and furnishings we buy are used. Our board of directors and staff take seriously the trust you have placed in us.
13. Limited services: while most of the matters mentioned above are something to crow about, being different isn't better in every way. Because we are small, we've realized that we must specialize. We do not offer: checking accounts, credit cards, money orders, debit cards, travelers' cheques, CDs, IRAs, or Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). We can neither accept your cash nor give you cash.
When you make a withdrawal we give you a check (you can cash it at--or buy money orders from--the institution on which it is drawn). We have short open hours and only one location. We permit no more than two withdrawals per account per month.
We urge you to make use of our services and give us your support. As you help us increase loans and deposits we'll be able to extend our hours; offer faster service; create more jobs; give you even better bargains. Click on It's Easy to Join
*Answer to "Who Is a Feminist" Quiz: B. (Those who fought for the right to vote for women--suffrage--were "suffragists".
Send us an email. Allow at least two of our business days for a response.
© 1998 - 2005 California Feminist Federal Credit Union