Worker Cooperatives

Businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their workers/employees (called "worker-owners").

In the recent series on his blog, The Workers' Paradise ,McNamara is very strong on the possibility of the cooperative movement being able to move to scale.  But he wisely directs our attention to the big problems this is going to bring, problems that are already burdening cooperatives.  The primary one he refers to is “the agency problem” (which is pretty much what I mean by “top/down problem”).

...As we left, many in our group were debating the pros and cons of global economic justice. I shared their concerns, but I also saw something else. Here was the beginnings of some of the most advanced productive forces in the world, the means of both economies of abundance and the means of clean and safe renewable energies and far lighter ecological footprints.
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I'm with a group of 25 social activists on a study tour organized by the Praxis Peace Project. Our focus is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, a 50-year-old network of nearly 120 factories and agencies, involving nearly 100,000 workers in one way or another, and centered in the Basque Country but now spanning the globe. We're here to study the history of these unique worker-owned factories, how they work, why they have been successful, and how they might be expanded in various ways as instruments of social change.
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Thank you, John McNamara for advancing the conversation about the opportunities, issues, and problems of taking the cooperative advantage to scale.
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At the conclusion of the seminar, Mondragon's Director of Cooperative Dissemination, Mikel Lezamiz, and I signed a letter of intent and endorsement to pave the way for initiating conversations with stakeholders in Richmond and beyond.  I want to share with you what I learned and also hear your ideas.
To this end I would like to invite all who are interested to a presentation and discussion on Mondragon and the potential for worker cooperatives in Richmond.  The same presentation will be given on two dates...
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Cuba will soon turn some small-scale manufacturing and retail services into cooperatives as the state retreats from minor businesses in an effort to boost the island's troubled economy, government and Communist Party sources said.
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Below is a report from Steve Rice (volunteer with the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives  [NoBAWC]), Poonam Whabi (Design Action Collective), and Rick Simon (Just Alternatives for a Sustainable Economy) on the Worker Co-operative component of the Congress.  This component calls on local government to...

 

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Vermont Employee Ownership Center reports onthe field hearing of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Kabir, and Pensions (HELP) conerning worker-ownership legislation Sen Bernie Sanders has introduced.   http://www.veoc.org/hearing.html

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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 2010 Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation AGM and Conference is being held from Thursday, October 28th to Saturday, October 30th, 2010 in Vancouver, B.C. at the YWCA Hotel.  The theme is "Worker Co-operatives and Sustainable Development."
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 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. 

The mascot of the Alvarado Street Bakery (ASB) is an orange and black cat, with a swinging tail and a sly grin. Perhaps his feisty smile is the result of good working conditions. ASB is the worker owned and run cooperative featured in Michael Moore’s recent film Capitalism: A Love Story as an example of economic democracy. ASB is based in Petaluma, California, but ships nationally through their website. In this interview, Joseph Tuck of ASB tells The Socialist about the company’s practices.

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From grocery stores and bakeries to bike shops and day care centers, worker-owned cooperatives are gaining popularity across the country. How are they faring in the recession? What solutions do co-ops offer for today’s recession/depression? If they gain even more popularity, could they transform the economy and the way we think it should work?

Guests include Dan Thomases, a founding member of Box Dog Bikes co-op, John Kusakabe of the Arizmendi Bakery co-op, and Hilary Abell of Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES).

 

 


 

 

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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.
The mascot of the Alvarado Street Bakery (ASB) is an
orange and black cat, with a swinging tail and a sly
grin. Perhaps his feisty smile is the result of good
working conditions.
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A new video interview with Jim Hightower on "unemployment and worker cooperatives."

Watch it here!

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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?  

 

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