July 1, 1992
By Yolanda Reynolds
Cesar Chavez spoke to a standing room gathering of people at Lee Mathson Middle School Monday Night. Chavez explained to a very attentive audience a ﬁnancial service program that the Farm Workers Union in cooperation with the AFL-CIO has developed for its membership.
Cesar Chavez explained that, at least 250 people express an interest in joining the membership into what is called the LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Entero) a Center for Benefits and Services. San Jose will have its own Union sponsored LUPE ofﬁce.
LUPE provides such service as a Loan Program. Chavez explained that the Loan Program offers several types of loans including, unsecured home equity loans. According to Mr. Chavez these programs are designed to meet the emergency, as well as other ﬁnancial needs of families. Generally, LUPE loans have lower interest rates than loans available on the open market.
LUPE members also have access to a union sponsored mortgage program which can allow for the home buyer to purchase a home with down payment as low as 5%. For a first-time home buyer and a three year union member that down payment can be as small as 3%. Another special feature to LUPE members is access to pre-approved loans which makes it easier for the homebuyer to negotiate on the purchase price when buying a home.
Another special, for Union members only, is a Master Card that doesn’t charge an annual fee, has no ATM (automated teller machine) fees, no cash advance fees and a variable interest rate on unpaid monthly balances. The interest charge on unpaid balances are 5% above the prime rate, generally less than most credit card charges. According to a handout provided to the audience, in June of 1991, that rate was 13.50%.
At no additional cost, LUPE members also have access to what the Union says is one of the largest “mail-service pharmacies in the nation.” LUPE members may purchase medication that costs up to 30% less for prescription drugs and may realize an even greater savings for generic medications than if purchased at the average neighborhood drugstore.
Another related service, limited to UHV members is a discount program available through the Union’s efforts at Long’s drugstores for prescription and medication purchases. This program provides UFW members a discount at Long’s which can use mean a savings of to 30% off of the retail prices.
The LUPE program also offers a “term life insurance” which Chavez says is particularly attractive because the insurance buyer is able to take advantage of the program’s “group rate” which results in insurance premiums that the Union leader says costs up to 25% less than generally available to the general public.
The Farm Worker along with the AFL-CIO have also been able to work out an agreement with Mexican Institute of Social Security in Mexico to provide a health insurance program for the families, including the extended family living in Mexico of Mexican laborers working in the United States. The cost of this insurance is $330 a year.
LUPE also provides several “clubs” one provides rebates that reduce travel costs (plane fares etc.) and another is a Car Club. The Car Club offers reduced costs not only for the purchase of a car but for its maintenance and upkeep. Cesar said club membership can help reduce the price of a car by $3,000.
Mr. Chavez said that LUPE currently has offices in Pellier ad Fresno and other Central Valley California communities. The program was developed to help the Farm Workers Union is considering requests for more offices with similar ﬁnancial services in Texas. Washington and Oregon.
Mr. Chavez said that the United Farm Workers would open an ofﬁce in San Jose soon – if there was sufﬁcient interest. When the presentation ended, the audience was asked how many would like to join. Many hands went up and a line quickly formed to ﬁll out the application form – membership is $20 per year.
The application form may have to be charged for use in cities – because it asks which type of agricultural crop the worker picks or if they work in an agricultural related ﬁeld – it may be that many of those at Monday’s meeting commute to the ﬁelds to their work but it may be that they are engaged in entirely different types of work.
Mr. Chavez says that the Union is hoping to soon purchase its own insurance company in order to better serve their membership.
The Farm Workers Union in recent expanded its attention to what it calls “quality of life” services. Mr. Chavez and the Union have been involved in land development and home construction. The Union has built homes for farm workers. The program is unique because the homes are privately owned by the farm worker. Chavez is especially proud of the homes in this program because they are low income affordable homes not only allow for private ownership but the Union built homes did not sacriﬁce on including amenities normally found in any other development such as yards, washer, dryers, carpeting, etc.
Others offering financial services are beginning to recognize that communities that at one time were ignored or denied access to ﬁnancial services are not a bad risk.
According to MN columnist Broderick Perkins, Great Western Financial Corporation’s “investment in non-Anglo communities has helped catapult it to the top of the list of America’s most proﬁtable thrifts.”
According to Broderick, 73% of Great Western’s Loans were made to low and moderate minority neighborhoods in Oakland. That company, Broderick says, also made over $260 million in loans to homeowners in 1990-91 in South Central Los Angeles.
Broderick explains that Great Western found that the default rate on small loans are far less on smaller loans.
He also says that the loan denial rate at Great Western is the same for European Americans as for African Americans whereas nationally African Americans are denied loans twice the rate of “whites.” A statistic that may be similar for other communities in San Jose.
A number of people at Monday night meeting said “al ﬁn – ya es tiempo” (at last- it is time) we have access to financial services. One woman said that she came out Monday night just to hear what “Cesar had to say.” She explained that she was on disability but greatly admired Mr. Chavez and would not miss an opportunity to hear him speak.
For more information on the financial services offered by the Farm Workers LUPE program telephone (408) 272-8184 or write LUPE – Centro de Beneficios y Servicios UFW P.O. Box 62 Keene Ca. 93531.