Workplace Democracy

By Emily Kennedy, Huffington Post

I bet you haven't heard of the global movement that's demanding a democratic economy. The one that's unsatisfied with the corporate business model and the way banks dominate the system. The one that's been occupying the social change arena since 1844. They're the Co-Operative Movement.

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US Steelworkers pass resolution endorsing its unionized, worker-owned cooperative development activities
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Inventive new resource turns to the public to raise funds and awareness
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Co-Soap Hopes Its Unique Business Model Will Spark Economic Growth and Justice.
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John Duda, of Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, a worker-owned and operated business in Baltimore, writes in the spring issue of Indypendent Reader about the process of building a just and sustainable economy by examining a local worker dog-walking cooperative called Just Walk, Cleveland's Evergreen Cooperatives, and the Sojourner-Douglass College plan to rebuild a neglected part of Baltimore called Oldtown with a community wealth strategy that will include cooperatives. 

Read Duda's article here

Jose Luis Lafuente, Mondragon's Corporate Management Model specialist 

 

Some things speak for themselves:

 Author's self-portrait outside of Mondragon headquarters.

 

Five of nine of us touring Mondragon arrive on Sunday in Bilbao, make our way to Mondragon-Arrastata, get settled and find food at the Monte bar a short walk from The Hotel Mondragon where we are staying for the week-long tour.  I fall into bed at about 10:30 (4:30 pm EST), the 12 hour journey and time zone change wearing me out.  Tonight there is no reading of The Kemetian Tree of Life, my nightly fix.   

Conversations with members from several worker co-ops in Venezuela
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Those who have done it talking about how
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A step-by-step DVD on starting a workers cooperative
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a Bay Area template that works in the US
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Analyzing & Debating a New Economy from the Perspective of Workers & Self-management

Mexico City, June 9-11, 2011

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35% growth since 2005, study claims
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Suggests a creative way to sell your business
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The top/down system we seek to change is embedded in us--in our nervous systems, our beliefs, our attitudes, our habits, and our behavior. We are what we are seeking to change.  It is not just out there.  And not only is it in here, but it is out there to a large extent because we, the change agents, re-produce it over and over and over in every kind of relationship we have. This is by no means just a tragic irony. No way. This is a great opportunity.

Most new small businesses fail. That's a fact, whether they are in the Basque Country or in the U.S. Or anywhere else. Yet the Mondragon Coops, which all started as small worker-owned businesses, have hardly ever failed. Why? The key is in Father Jose Maria Arizmendi's original founding conception of cooperatives as the interlocking of school, factory and credit union.
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Our topic this morning is the wider range of the cooperative movement, both in the Basque Country and Spain. Mondragon is a part of the Basque Cooperative Confederation. There are currently 755 cooperatives in the Basque Country, and only 80 of them are the worker-owned MCC coops. There are a total of 537,000 members of all the coops, but only 54,919 are worker members, and 37,860 of these are the MCC worker-owners. 

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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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