Union organizer at Michigan credit union fired over ‘policy violation’

Ivan Diaz. Courtesy Kent County

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from LMCU.

A Lake Michigan Credit Union worker who helped organize a recent union effort said he was fired from the organization.

Ivan Diaz, who had been employed as a member service representative at LMCU’s South Division branch, said Wednesday, Feb. 1, he was terminated from his position.

Diaz, who also recently was elected as a Kent County Commissioner representing District 20, worked at LMCU for nearly five years and was one of the South Division branch employees organizing the union effort. Employees announced their union petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in December and voted to unionize with the Communications Workers of America in early January after winning their union election.

According to the workers, the goal was to improve working conditions, transparency and communication at the branch.

“With a union, we can work directly with upper management to address the longstanding issues that we’ve had in our branch, so that we can better serve our customers and our community,” Diaz said in a January statement.

On Feb. 1, Diaz said he arrived for work and assisted one customer before his branch manager and a member of LMCU’s executive leadership team came into his office and informed him he was terminated.

According to Diaz, the reason provided for his termination was “a violation of policy.” After inquiring further, Diaz said he was given some documents but did not have the chance to review them in the moment.

“When I asked what policy I had violated, they handed me a couple of pages and it looked sort of like a timeline,” Diaz said. “I didn’t get a chance to read through them much because they were still talking to me and asking me for my keys. … But I haven’t had any disciplinary action recently. I’m pretty sure I have little to nothing in my file when it comes to disciplinary actions.”

Diaz told leadership to expect to hear from the union and was escorted from the building.

LMCU said in a statement, “we deny Mr. Diaz’s allegations. Mr. Diaz is aware of the reasons for his dismissal, as detailed in his termination letter, and is able to share them if he elects to do so, but Lake Michigan Credit Union respects the privacy of our employees and does not comment on individual employee personnel matters. LMCU is committed to complying with all state and federal laws, including the national labor relations act as well as all banking laws and regulations. Our members entrust us to protect their investments, and we expect every one of our employees to uphold the highest standards of compliance with all state and federal laws.”

Although disappointed, Diaz said he and his team have been trained and prepared for this type of situation. Still, in light of current events, he said he is surprised by the decision.

“Given the recent decisions on other things that have been happening, say with the Starbucks workers or the Amazon workers and how the NLRB has treated those cases, I’m surprised at how LMCU made this decision,” Diaz said.

“I think this is a good example of why our state and national legislatures need to do everything possible to update our worker protection laws that haven’t been updated in decades.”

Diaz also said the assistant branch manager at LMCU’s South Division location was let go recently because “her values did not align with the company’s values,” and she would not be able to work well with the branch manager anymore.

“As the firing of my assistant branch manager shows, I think there should be protections for managers too; to not have their jobs and livelihoods threatened just because their employees are unionizing,” he said.

For now, Diaz plans to work as a substitute teacher as he goes through the legal process.

Nick Weiner, organizing director of the Committee for Better Banks (CBB), said in a social media post the organization will support Diaz and hold LMCU management accountable for violating Diaz’s rights.

The workers at LMCU unionized with the Communications Workers of America, a coalition member in the CBB.

“We are proud of the LMCU workers at the South Division branch who came together to form a union with the intent of making their credit union a better place to work and to bank,” Weiner said in January. “Organizing a union is never an easy feat, but LMCU workers know that to best support their local community, they need a voice on the job.”

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