An “Ecosystem of Worker Co-ops”!?


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Movements Moving Together 13.                      

An email was recently sent out from NYC Worker Cooperative Coalition with this subject head:

Organising, Mobilising, and Building a Worker Cooperative Ecosystem from the Ground Up.

I have a hard time making sense of this as a metaphor for a serious strategy or vision. A one-crop system is about as contrary to an ecosystem as you can get. And a farm growing a variety of corns is still a one-crop farm.

I genuinely would like to know how the Coalition is thinking about its relations to the whole co-operative world and the much larger world of alternative economics. Is it the Coalition’s intent to advocate a statewide network that intends to exclude food, credit union, and all other consumer co-operatives as well as producer co-ops, housing co-ops, real estate co-ops? Or was this phrasing a mistake generated by passion trumping nuance.

I hope this is just a matter of enthusiasm going into literary over-drive. However, the Coalition’s regular use of the phrase “worker co-operative economy” suggests it may not be.

The Coalition is necessarily embedded in a network of government and social service agencies in order to benefit from large funding. That network has few if any roots in the co-operative networks and culture that has been evolving over the past several hundred years. So the Coalition does have to speak in ways that fit into that situation so that it can operate in that world.

At the same time the co-operative identity, values, and principles animating their work challenges them to stay grounded in the larger co-operative network and culture. Using prominent language that suggests dissociation from worker co-operative roots would not seem to help in maintaining an appropriate balance of interests.   

Personally, I am pretty extreme on the value of building a deep and thick ecosystem for all alternative economic movements especially at regional levels. For several strategic reasons (which I have discussed in this blog series) I believe we should think in terms of all co-operatives working with committed fellow-travelers among intentional communities and co-houses, community land trusts, community gardens, local currencies, time banks, subsistence-based businesses, and so on.

In that context I see all co-operatives, and worker co-ops especially, as being a premier form of alternative economic enterprises. That’s an earned status over several hundred years of development. Everywhere throughout our movement we should nurture that history and those roots, especially in the face of big money.

So I would like to understand the thinking and dynamics behind such phrases as a “worker co-operative economy” and “an ecosystem of worker co-operatives.”

 

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