Republic Steel Credit Union to Merge with ASECU, Ending 83-Year Run
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – One of the oldest credit unions in the Mahoning Valley that has links to the region’s heyday of steelmaking is preparing to close its doors.
Effective early next year, the R.S.C. Federal Credit Union will merge with the Associated School Employees Credit Union, ending an 83-year run that began during the Great Depression with employees of the Republic Steel Corp.
“It’s a sign of the times,” said Joe Rosky, chairman of R.S.C.’s board of directors and a Republic Steel credit union member since the 1960s. He said it’s been difficult for smaller credit unions such as R.S.C. to compete and upgrade services to include online banking, mortgages and other financial products.
“We’re still viable, but it was just a matter of time,” he said. “I think there’ve been five credit union mergers in the last year and a half alone just in our region.”
R.S.C. also includes members from Republic’s operations in Cleveland and Warren.
When Republic closed its Youngstown mill during the early 1980s, it also shut off the credit union’s client base, Rosky said, since members were relegated to Republic employees or their relatives. In 1984, Republic Steel filed for bankruptcy and merged with LTV Corp., but the Youngstown mill never reopened.
LTV Steel would subsequently file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1986 and again in 2000.
Rosky, a retired firefighter from Boardman, said his father worked at the Youngstown mill for 47 years. The original offices of the credit union were in Republic’s office building just off the Market Street bridge, on land where Wean Park and the Covelli Centre are today.
“My dad and I used to ride the bus down here, he’d go in, do his business and make a day of it downtown,” he said. “He’d get his shoes shined on the square and we’d end up at Jay’s [Hot Dogs].”
The credit union’s offices are still downtown on the third floor of the Ohio One Building. Once the merger is complete, that office will close. Currently, R.S.C. has 520 members, most of them elderly, Rosky said.
Diane Yanek, the credit union’s single full-time employee and its secretary-treasurer, said she would retire once the merger is completed. “For our size, we just can’t keep up with the demands of the younger clients.”
R.S.C. was chartered in 1937, the same year thousands of workers walked out of Republic Steel’s works in Youngstown, Warren, Cleveland and Chicago during the Little Steel Strike. Smaller steel companies such as Republic and Youngstown Sheet & Tube refused to recognize the steelworkers’ union, declining to follow the lead giant steelmakers such as U.S. Steel, which accepted the union earlier that year.
The strife that followed was among the bloodiest labor disputes of the Great Depression. In Youngstown, two picketers were killed during a violent confrontation near the entrance to Republic’s mill on Poland Avenue.
Little Steel did not agree to recognize the union until 1942, after the United States had entered World War II. During the war years, the steel industry boomed and that prosperity dovetailed into the decade of the 1950s and the early 1960s.
Board member Frank Gunger said he worked at various jobs at Republic mills in Youngstown, Cleveland and Warren. “I started in January 1956 and retired 17 days before LTV went bankrupt,” he said.
Another board member, Robert Magni, joined Republic in 1956 after being discharged from the U.S. Navy a year earlier. “I worked there for 43 years,” he said.
His son, Robert Jr., is also a board member. He was hired just out of high school to work at Republic, but times had already changed. “Three years later, Youngstown Sheet & Tube shut down and Republic followed,” he said.
The younger Magni said that the merger makes sense since Associated School Employees Credit Union provides the type of member benefits that are necessary in today’s market. “The costs of getting ourselves into this century were prohibitive,” he said. “It’s good for the members.”
R.S.C. mailed out 520 ballots so members could vote on the merger and the measure was overwhelmingly approved, Rosky said.
An in-person member meeting was held Monday, but no stakeholders showed up.
“They’ve done an excellent job of serving their membership over the years given the climate they’ve had to deal with,” said Michael Kurish, CEO of Associated School Employees Credit Union.
The credit union has branches in Austintown, Boardman, Lordstown, Newton Falls and in Youngstown on the campus of Youngstown State University. It boasts about 14,000 members, he said.
R.S.C. reached out to ASECU several months ago regarding a merger, Kurish said, and the idea was warmly received. The merger process followed protocols established by the National Credit Union Administration, which calls for a vote by R.S.C.’s membership, he said.
“We’re honored to be considered by them,” Kurish said.
The acquisition is a noncash transaction in which R.S.C.’s assets and liabilities would be merged onto ASECU’s books, he said.
Associated School Employees Credit Union provides services such as debit cards, auto and mortgage loans, mobile banking, online banking, IRAs, and bill payment.
“They reached a point where they wanted to seek a merger partner – someone who can provide the same level of service and bring in new services,” Kurish said.
Kurish said that Associated School Employees takes pride in being a local institution, one of the few such credit unions left in the Mahoning Valley.
“Credit unions are run by a volunteer board of directors, so everything remains local,” he said.
Rosky said it’s remarkable that R.S.C. has survived as long as it has, since the local operations of Republic Steel closed almost 40 years ago.
“It’s the end of a long era, but we’ve done a hell of a job,” he reflected.
Pictured: The R.S.C. Federal Credit Union’s members overwhelmingly voted to merge with Associated School Employees Credit Union. Representing R.S.C. are board members Robert Magni Sr., Robert Magni Jr. and Joe Rosky, as well as secretary/treasurer Diane Yanek and Frank Gunger (seated).
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.