500 'Like' Page Opposing Conversion; Members Say Phone Calls Urge 'Yes' Vote

SAN JOSE, Calif.-A conversion attempt by $1.6-billion Technology CU to a bank used to be a private affair, but the advent of social media has added an entirely new element to the effort.

The social media is being rolled out at the same time some members are reporting they are being contacted by Tech CU representatives urging them to vote in favor of the conversion.

As reported previously by CU Journal, Robert Marinace, a longtime member of Tech CU opposed to the charter conversion, has joined forces with fellow member Carlos Rodriguez, who set up a website (www.stayacu.org) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/stayacu). The sites have served as a rallying point for others opposed to the proposed charter change.

At presstime, the Facebook page had attracted 510 "Likes" and many posts. Among the opinions expressed by people identifying themselves as members of Tech CU was this comment from Martin Brutsch: "I am voting NO also. Have been a member since 2002 when I moved to (San Jose). Credit unions, and especially Tech CU, are wonderful to bank with because there is this tangible feeling that this institution is working for its members. There is no way, in my opinion, that converting to a mutual bank will preserve this relationship with the members. Service will decline and fees will go up."

Carolyn Szczesny wrote, "I am also opposed to this change. I have had accounts with mutual banks in the past. Three of them went under or were bought out by Wells Fargo."

Cynthia Cobb added, "I wanted to be a member of a CU. I have done the bank thing and my accounts left the banking world back in the 1990s. I had banking account with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, and Sears Saving, which was bought by Citibank. If we end up converting, I will have to look for the next closest credit union to me."

Tony Gleadhill wrote a lengthy post, including several scathing remarks about banks and said, "I would question the TCU Director's wisdom and prudence in bringing this proposal to the membership at this point in time. It seems to me we, the members, have nothing to gain from this change and everything to lose." Gleadhill, who noted he had switched from banks to CUs in the past, concluded by stating, "I, for one, will vote no on this proposal. If I am in the minority, once again I will remove all by deposits in the new bank to another member oriented and member serving credit union."

Telemarketing Calls

Some posters on "Please Don't Go" (the name for the anti-conversion Facebook page) described receiving telephone calls in support of the charter change. Maddi Hausmann Sojourner reported the caller-who identified herself as an employee of Tech CU-was "quite determined to counter my arguments."

"I asked her five times is she would read the study showing all the conversions then morph into stock banks. She said she would, but I don't believe her," Sojourner wrote.

The page's "Wall" included dozens upon dozens of posters, seemingly all stating some variation on the theme, "I am against this conversion. If Tech CU becomes a bank I will pull my money out and join another credit union."