Kaiser Aluminum Corp., acting in the wake of a bitter February strike, has canceled the lease of a Northland Federal Credit Union branch that has been on the grounds of the company’s Mead smelter for almost 50 years.
Northland President Bill Roberts said the move probably stems from his refusal to let the company house temporary workers in the branch during the weeklong strike by the United Steelworkers of America.
Kaiser spokeswoman Susan Ashe said the company evicted Northland because the branch cut back services from five days a week to one and reduced administrative services like petty cash checking.
She also noted that Northland was invited onto the smelter site when there were few if any banking facilities available on the far north side.
Credit union/However, the letter from Mead Manager David Kjos notifying That is no longer the case.
However, the letter from Mead Manager David Kjos notifying Northland the branch’s lease would be terminated was dated the day after the union voted to end the strike.
Roberts said the letter contained no explanation for Kaiser’s action, and he has received none despite subsequent efforts to get one.
Kaiser kept the Mead smelter operating during the strike by bringing in salaried workers to replace the Steelworkers.
The replacements stayed in temporary shelters brought onto the plant site before the walkout.
Roberts said he was asked a few days after the strike began to open the branch to provide additional sleeping quarters.
He said he had closed the facility so credit union workers would not have to cross picket lines. He was also worried about the building and insurance liability, he said.
“Our full intent was to stay neutral,” Roberts said. “Management was basically trying to force us to side one way or the other.”
Northland was created to serve Kaiser workers at Mead, but now caters to an area encompassing the Mead School District. Of its 4,400 members, 800 are Kaiser workers.
Roberts said Northland has had a branch at the smelter almost continuously since it reopened as a Kaiser facility after World War II.
In the early-1980s, with Kaiser fighting to survive, Northland sold its former building to the aluminum maker, which converted the structure into an engineering facility.
When Kaiser invited Northland back onto the smelter grounds, Roberts said, the credit union purchased a double-wide trailer instead of building a permanent structure.
He said Northland is looking for another site for the trailer, but has so far been unsuccessful. The credit union must leave by Aug. 1.
Roberts said the branch is not profitable, serving mostly as a place to take deposits and cash checks. Customers will have access to the same services at Northland’s main branch on the Newport Highway.
Many Kaiser managers, including Kjos, remain members, he said.