Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ten Reasons to Believe: Important Sites on Worker Cooperatives

I recently asked Shared Sacrifice Facebook readers whether, as the economy collapses, people will turn to hate, or turn toward each other. The response was a unanimous, fearful prediction of hate. That led me to think about the people out there who have thought about and implemented, in some cases with extreme success, alternative economic models on the ground. So before you sink into despair at what economic decline will do to one another, take heart in the possibility that more people will come to realize that cooperation _is_ self-interest. For those only slightly familiar with cooperative work models, here are ten web sites to visit that will get you seriously thinking about the economic case for cooperation.

1. Most progressives have probably heard of Mondragon. Here's a quick read on how Mondragon works and some critical analysis the author speeds quickly through at the end.

2. Listen to this podcast by Business Matters on worker-owned coops.

3. The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives is a national grassroots organization offering advice, resources, solidarity for worker cooperatives in the U.S.

4. Equal Exchange: a food cooperative

5. Check out Citybikes, a Portland cooperative bike shop--actually two branches in Portland

6. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development supports --and funds-- worker-owned cooperatives. "Over the past ten years, CCHD has supported worker-owned cooperatives focused on paraprofessional healthcare, child care, cleaning, sewing and craft production and temporary employment businesses."

7. Listen to "Your Call" with Rose Aguilar: "Worker-Owned Cooperatives: The Work We Do is the Solution" .

8. Personal essay by a worker-owner at the well-known Rainbow Grocery cooperative.

9. Participatory Economics guru Robin Hahnel on reducing inequality among worker cooperatives.

10. "The United Steel Workers Union, North America's largest industrial trade union, announced a new collaboration with the world's largest worker-owned cooperative, Mondragon International, based in the Basque region of Spain."

A careful study of worker cooperatives has something to offer progressives of varying tendencies. For the socialist, worker cooperatives really are schools and laboratories for what works and doesn't in trying to build a post-capitalist economy. For Greens, they're an example of the kind of policies that should be promoted by legislation and built by grass roots movements. For Democrats, they are a reason to push their party away from corporatism, if that's possible at this point. They may even have something to offer the non-paleo libertarians. Happy reading. I mean, this is happy reading, so happy reading!


Russell Arben Fox said...

Excellent list of links, Matt--thanks for putting it all together! I'll have to read all of these.

In reading through the first essay on Mondragon, I encountered a lot of arguments which I've become family with lately. Erik Olin Wright, in his book on utopian (really socialist) thinking, talks about how Mondragon really represents what he calls an "interstitial" (meaning, not participating with the state, but not confronting it either) capitalist-socialist hybrid, and as such something the left needs to take seriously. It's recent problems from an egalitarian point of view seem to be connected to the degree to which it has had to leave its wholly interstitial condition, and adopt the expansion patterns familiar to all capitalist corporations, in order to survive in the globalized, neo-liberal market structures of the EU, etc. If Mondragon had been able to maintain its economic health as a producer within a more limited (protected?) market sphere, then it might not have succumbed to those pressures, and might not have been forced, as it lately unfortunately has been, to develop in less than fully cooperative ways.

Anonymous said...

Great list. There are some pretty good resources over at the blog American Worker Cooperative as well.

John Atherton said...

Good selection of links to read, thanks.

I work with worker co-operatives in the UK.

Your readers might also be interested

Axel said...

Another link for your readers:

JASeconomy Group


Together they stand for the free-spirited, improvised and egalitarian economy folks across the country are building: the grassroots economy that puts people before profit... way before profit!