Our History

The History of ILWU Credit Union.

ILWU Credit Union was founded in 1954 by Local 13 members Benny McDonald, Pete Moore and Tony Arriaga. The Credit Union was founded as financial cooperative to provide a place for longshoremen to cash their paychecks, save and borrow money at reasonable loan rates. The Credit Union operated out of a small building next to the Union payroll office cashing checks, taking deposits and loan applications for the longshoremen and their family members.

The Credit Union has enjoyed a good relationship with the I.L.W.U. over the years with longshoremen being told to join ILWU Credit Union when they joined the union and began working at the Port of Los Angeles. I.L.W.U. Credit Union Board Member Dan Imbagliazzo explained that “Those old-timers made me understand the importance of a trustworthy place for working families to save and borrow.”

The I.L.W.U. Members who founded ILWU Credit Union knew that the Credit Union movement had the same goal to improve the lives of the American worker. The Credit Union movement was born out of the need to provide affordable credit and a place to save for working families by creating the “financial cooperatives” that were the pre-cursor to modern credit unions. While the labor movement in the United States formed during the same period of time to fight for better wages and working conditions for workers across a wide variety of industries.

Credit Unions were formed to serve the financial needs of members with a common bond. The majority of Credit Unions were formed by the employees of major corporations such as Boeing, Hughes Aircraft or government agencies such as cities or school districts. Many of these groups formed a Credit Union to help them with a specific financial need such as summer pay in the case of teachers and school administrators. The I.L.W.U. like other unions was formed by the workers in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach who had the common bond of being longshoremen. The I.L.W.U. works to make the lives of longshoremen better by negotiating for safer working conditions, better healthcare, higher wages and retirement benefits for their brothers and sisters up and down the west coast of the United States.

The strength of the I.L.W.U. in the ports of Southern California allowed ILWU Credit Union to grow steadily over the years expanding their Field of Membership to include the Members of I.L.W.U. Locals from San Diego in the South to Port Hueneme to the North. By 1990 the Credit Union boasted 5,621 Members with just under $20 Million dollars in assets.

The new millennium was a turning point in the history of ILWU Credit Union. In December of 2000 ILWU Credit Union had shown little growth since 1990 with 5,500 members and over $24 million in assets. Over the next 14 years the Credit Union expanded online access, opened a new branch office and experienced historic growth in Membership and assets with 14,544 Members and assets over $162 million.

In 2016, ILWU Credit Union completed a merger with ILWU FSC Federal Credit Union located in Northern California. With the completion of the merger, ILWU Credit Union's asset size is now over $228 million with over 18,600 members and a new branch location in Oakland, California. This merger is significant because now ILWU Credit Union can serve all I.L.W.U. Locals in the entire state of California.

Unions and Credit Unions a common thread.

The earliest financial cooperatives date back to the beginning of 19th century in England. A few decades later, credit unions took root in Germany. Motivated by the crop failure and famine of 1846, Herman Schulze-Delitzsch organized a cooperatively-owned mill and bakery. In 1850 he formed the first cooperative credit society known as the people’s bank to address the needs of credit for working class families. (1)

The Labor movement in the United States began to take hold with the workingmen’s parties of the 1830s. These advocates of equal rights mounted a series of reform efforts that spanned the nineteenth century. Most notable were the National Labor Union, launched in 1866, and the Knights of Labor, which reached its zenith in the mid-1880s. The Knights of Labor was replaced by the American Federation of Labor in 1886. (2)

In 1900, at the start of the 20th century, the credit union concept crossed the Atlantic to Levis, Quebec, where Alphonse Desjardins organized La Caisse Populaire de Levis. A court reporter, Desjardins became aware of loan sharks charging outrageous interest. In response, he organized this first credit union in North America to provide affordable credit to working class families. (1)

The first longshore unions on the West Coast were founded in the 19th century. By 1902 the longshoremen were loosely affiliated with the American Federation of Labor’s International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA). But their ties to national headquarters were weak, and most returned or lost their charters within a few a years. (3)

During the 1920s, the U.S. credit union movement became increasingly popular. Families had more money to save and could afford products like automobiles and washing machines. They, however, needed a source of inexpensive credit to purchase these goods. The popularity of credit unions grew because commercial banks and savings institutions generally showed limited interested in offering such consumer loans. (1)

In 1934 the West Coast Port workers organized under the ILA banner as one unified bargaining unit. After a strike that included the events of Bloody Thursday when pitched battles with the employers goon squads and the National Guard in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and San Pedro occurred . Hundreds of strikers – and bystanders – were arrested and injured. On July 5, known ever after as Bloody Thursday, two workers were shot and killed. A total of six workers were shot or beaten to death on the West Coast by police or company goons during the course of the strike. (3)

In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law, creating a national system to charter and to supervise federal credit unions. The credit union movement grew steadily in the 1940s and 1950s. By 1960, credit union membership amounted to more than 6 million individuals belonging to more than 10,000 federal and state chartered credit unions. (1)

(1) Excerpts taken from the Credit Union National Association website. (2) Excerpts taken from history.com. (3) Excerpts taken from the I.L.W.U. Local 13 website.