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Listen to this, from the NYTimes:

 "All faiths are welcome to eat a free lunch daily at the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for Sikhs, in Amritsar, India."

 "Soupy lentils, three and a third tons of them, bubble away in vast cauldrons, stirred by bearded, barefoot men wielding wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles. The pungent, savory bite wafting through the air comes from 1,700 pounds of onions and 132 pounds of garlic, sprinkled with 330 pounds of fiery red chilies.  It is lunchtime at what may be the world’s largest free eatery, the langar, or community kitchen at this city’s glimmering Golden Temple..."

In 2005, Johnston Birchall addressed the International Co-operative community. It was the occasion of the the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Statement on the Co-operative Identity. Prof. Birchall called for the community to "operationalize" the statement. Researchers at St. Mary's University in Halifax have created a tool to help worker co-ops do just that.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund on August 19, 2010 honored Alice Walker in Birmingham, AL at its annual dinner attended by more than 400 people.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and self-proclaimed "daughter of the rural peasantry" was presented the Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement award by FSC Executive Director Ralph Paige. The largely black organization of farmer cooperatives works to save and preserve black-owned farmlands. 

How do we create a competitive advantage through the worker coop model when we treat ourselves so much better than the workers in our industry and pay for the higher cost of democracy?

One of the great treats at a national worker coop conference is to learn about the incredible stories that exist. It is easy, sitting in our cooperatives at home, to imagine a world where we are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then we come to a conference and get our mind blown--not just once, or twice, but several times.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I wandered into the meeting room. The description discussed the important role of compassion in dealing with conflicts as opposed to the more common acts of assigning blame.

It was led by Michael Johnson who is part of the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives, GEO and has been living in an intentional community for 30 years. Part of this workshop was based on his real-life experiences in attempting to find more productive methods of resolving conflict.

 There was so many rich quotes from the national worker cooperative conference that took place in Berkeley last weekend.  Many got lost in my unreadable handwriting.

Here are only a few that I was able to capture: 

 

hilary abell

"This isn't for everyone.  Co-ops are awesome."

--Hilary Abell, WAGES Executive Director.

 

patricia Feraud Toxic soil busters

The Evergreen cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio was the story everyone wanted to hear at the opening session on Saturday Aug. 7, 2010 of the U.S. Federation for Worker Cooperatives conference in Berkeley. 

WAGES is being used as a model by Mexican and Central American immigrants to create their own jobs. Minsun Ji, El Centro Humanitario's executive director in Denver, CO, said when they contacted WAGES to be able to adapt the WAGES strategy locally: "We were so desperate. There were no jobs. We were really, really desperate."

At conferences it is always refreshing to meet great and inspiring people who are creating the change the world needs. Listening to the brass band on Saturday night and chanting "no bosses" was invigorating and refreshing. Thank you to all I had the pleasure of meeting.

I still have a few more posts on the National Worker Cooperative Conference held in Berkeley last week, but this post isn't about the specific workshops, but a general feeling and vibe that I found at the conference (and at other conferences). The work of building a cooperative society isn't quite like other trade associations or business cultures.

We are not going to become the solution any time soon, but I believe that we have the opportunity to achieve a lot, like laying down a foundational strategy and infrastructure open to diverse approaches for the generation to come.
Final Thoughts: Sunday August 8, 2010 USFWC UofC Berkeley 5:30pm

-Have the opportunity to give new meaning to the term ownership society

-Need to market the fact that we are co-operatives and make co-ops visible and put the co-op model front and centre

Sunday August 8, 2010 1:25pm USFWC UofC Berkeley, Workshop hosted by John McNamara (Union Cab Cooperative)

One of the formative questions of the contemporary worker cooperative movement has been that of who the movement is for.  What group of people are included in the movement's organizations, have access the movement's resources, share and shape the movement's values and the campaigns around those values?  

 

At the opening gathering of the 4th bi-ennial conference of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, it was clear that the movement has reached a significant milestone. 

Melissa HooverAudience raising hands to indicate where they're from

Personally I am finding it very difficult to blog the conference, and I can’t imagine that it is easy for any of the folks who have volunteered to do this.
I am just going to briefly give my impressions and what seemed to me to be the highlights.  This was the first meeting I have attended, so I lack a lot of perspective.

 Hightower holding up his book

Jim Hightower is a man of very colorful language. 

"We have to get the hogs out of the creek" was Hightower's parting message in his keynote address at the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives on Friday, Aug. 6 at the San Francisco Women's Building. 

I think the hogs was the metaphor for cleaning out those muddying up what democracy is supposed to be. We need a grassroots movement to make change, to clean the creek.

I wasn't able to sit through the entire presentation, however, I wanted to capture as much as I could of this interesting presentation about the ability of labor unions and worker cooperatives to co-exist and to thrive.

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