With the US presidential election due to take place in November, co-operatives have the opportunity to engage with the two candidates and raise issues of concern for their members.
In the run-up to the election the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has launched a campaign that stresses the role of credit unions in empowering the country’s middle class. The online platform, middleclass2016.com, encourages people to sign a petition to call on the two presidential candidates to include credit unions in their economic plans for strengthening the middle class.
The campaign build on the results of a recent CUNA survey, which showed that 54% of respondents believed credit unions were the best place for middle-class consumers to deposit their money.
“We want to ensure that the candidates often hear about credit unions and the benefits we provide to middle and lower income individuals as they formulate their positions on economic policy. With a strong League/CUNA push on this campaign, we’re hoping to generate a lot of discussion on social media about credit unions and the middle class,” Richard Gose, CUNA’s chief political officer commented on the launch of the campaign in October last year.
In a special infographic, CUNA has also explored the four potential presidential election scenarios and how each might affect credit unions. The infographic is available at CreditUnionTimes.
The National Co+op Grocers (NCG), a business service co-op for retail food co-operatives in the USA is supporting efforts to increase organic production.
Asked what particular policies they wanted from an incoming Administration, Allie Mentzer, Advocacy Specialist from NCG, said: “National Co+op Grocers (NCG) supports federal policies which foster the co-operative economy, a sustainable food system, fair treatment of people, and a healthy environment. On behalf of NCG co-ops, we work with a number of partner organisations to lobby Congress and the White House.
“Specifically, NCG strongly supports efforts to increase US organic production, so that soaring consumer demand for organic foods can be met domestically and Americans can partake in the many environmental, health and social benefits which organic agriculture has to offer. To this end, NCG priorities advocacy efforts in support of federal policies that level the playing field for organic farmers, while also ensuring the USDA Organic label meets consumer expectations and is backed by strong organic standards.”
The US Congress already has a bipartisan Cooperative Business Caucus formed to promote the co-operative business model. The group is co-chaired by Rep Ed Royce (Republicans, California) and Rep Mark Pocan (Democrats, Wiscounsin).
While the two candidates have made no specific commitments to growing the co-operative sector, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has promised to rewrite the rules to ensure that workers share in the profits they help create.
Senator Clinton plans to encourage companies to share profits with employees. She envisages a profit-sharing arrangement that would make enterprises performing well share profit with workers. Ms Clinton promises to award a two-year tax credit to companies that share profits with their employees. The benefit for any single company in a given year would be capped to prevent an excessive credit for very large corporations.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump expressed his support for rural energy co-operatives during a speech hosted by South Carolina’s Broad River Electric Co-operative.
Co-op Rural Power, a campaign run by members of electric co-ops has asked both candidates what their policies on energy would be. Mr Trump said he was in favour of modernising the electrical grid.
He also told Rural Power campaigners that the USA needed to use all forms of energy, not just renewables, including ethanol. However, Mr Trump makes no clear reference to rural co-ops in his positions.
In 2015 Hillary Clinton wrote about increasing investments in rural energy, highlighting that rural communities were leaders in providing clean electricity to the rest of the country, strengthening economic competitiveness. The Democratic candidate has also called for expanding USDA programmes that partner with farmers, small business, and co-ops in rural communities across the USA.
In an interview with the Daily Times Herald Sunday, she talked about her role as senator of New York from 2001-2009. The state’s second-biggest industry was agriculture, and Ms Clinton highlighted the important role played by rural electric co-ops across the state’s rural areas.
She called for more co-operatives in the retail sector to cut costs and “channel some of those saved resources into economic development and into a broader market outreach by small towns”. She also said there was a need to reinvent co-operatives for the future, allowing them to help entrepreneurs work together to share resources or staff.