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Making it Our Business: Co-ops on the Rise

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Unveiling a new car at modo co-op, a car sharing member-owned co-op in Vancouver, Canada. Image by (cc) Flickr user abundantc

2012 has been declared the year of the co-op by the United Nations. And the global economic situation is causing more people to consider how worker owned businesses might serve their employees and community better. But forming, and sustaining a co-op isn’t easy.  On this edition, we go from Chicago, where workers are trying to take over the factory to save their jobs, to the Basque country in Spain, where an entire region has formed a massive co-operative society.

This show was funded in part by the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative

Featuring:

Republic Windows and Doors Company workers; Ricky Maclin, United Electrical Workers Local 10 vice president; Armando Robles, United Electrical Workers Local 10 union president; Denis Kelleher, Center for Workplace Democracy executive director; Franz Vandergroen, Sampat Weerasinghe, Sarah Wells, Arizmendi Fourth Street members; Paula, Arizmendi 4th Street candidate; John Kusakabe, Arizmendi Lakeshore member, Tim Huet, Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives co-founder; Mikel Lezamiz, Mondragon Cooperative Dissemination director ; Maria Jesus, Mondragon worker/member; Professor Fred Freundlich, University of Mondragon researcher; Ainara Uduando, Lanki Institute director

Occupy Your Workplace
Workers’ self-management, workplace democracy and cooperatives; with Richard D. Wolff, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Gar Alperovitz, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis and ILO


Co-ops that Work Together, Survive Together- Arizmendi Bakery

One of the most challenging parts of forming a worker owned business is that there aren’t a lot of models to follow.  In some parts of the United States, there are virtually no co-ops.  Learning how to manage and run a successful business isn’t easy, especially when you’re trying to do it differently.  So many of those co-ops that do exist feel a special responsibility—to support each other, and help grow the number of worker controlled businesses out there.  One of the model co-op organizations is located in the San Francisco Bay Area—its called Arizmendi.  Making Contact’s Andrew Stelzer brings us this story about how when one of the organizations bakeries fell on hard times, the other businesses pitched  in both money and time to help it survive.

Can Chicago Windows and Doors Factory Workers Form a Co-op?

It’s frequently said that in order for the United States to stay economically competitive, we need to produce things.  But corporations that do just that continue to close plants and move overseas.  One Chicago factory became a flashpoint back in 2008, when workers occupied the floor for days in protest.  Now, those same employees are trying to take thing even further—they want to buy and control the factory themselves.
Making Contact’ George Lavender reports on how those workers are looking to the past as they try to pave a new path for American manufacturing.

Growing Pains at The Worlds Largest Co-op?

Hemmed in by mountains and hills, the town of Mondragón – Arrasate in the Basque language – might not be the most logical base for a corporate giant. Yet factories, businesses, research centres and colleges belonging to the Mondragón Corporation seem to have filled every valley and village in the area, spreading out like fingers. Their activities include everything from banking to bike factories, nano-technology to rabbit farming. Its a corporate dream—but this corporation, is owned by the workers.  And as Making Contact’s Tom Allan reports, over the past 50 years, Mondragón’s success has become an inspiration for co-ops all over the world.

For More Information:
United Nations International Year of Co-operatives
Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives
Mondragon Corporation
modo co-op, the car sharing co-op
Lanki Institute of Cooperative Research
Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC)
US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
Fairness at Republic
National Cooperative Business Association
United Electrical Workers
Rainbow Grocery Cooperative
California Center for Cooperative Development
CoOp Biz Advice group
Democracy At Work Network
This Way Out Film
What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution by Gar Alperovitz

Articles
Greetings from the New Economy by Abby Scher
A Cooperative Manifesto by Tim Huet
Chicago Factory Occupiers Form Worker Cooperative
Basque country’s thriving big society
Richard D. Wolff: Can We Remake Our Workplaces To Be More Democratic?
Steelworkers Seek Job Creation via Worker-Owned Factories

Music:

Pantxoa eta Peio, “Euskal Herria”
Alboka, “Urrutiko Polkak”
Rjd2, “Work It Out”

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2 Comments

  1. Cabot Creamery is a 1,200+ farm family dairy cooperative with members in New England and upstate NY. The formed a co-op in 1919 in order to allow dairy farms to pool resources rather than try to compete against each other. It is a great example of a successful co-op.

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