Cooperatives… The next generations must have them.
Richard Wolff is on fire here. He is explaining the cooperative model and why it will save the US. I have never seen a better video on the subject. This video should be required listening for all economists. The ideas presented should be reflected upon and understood.
When I was studying social work in the 1980’s, I learned of the Mondragon Cooperative Spain. They had job security. They had protection for their families. They had financing for the community. They had programs to train young students in business and to send them on research trips. They had a vibrant business that was the community.
In social work, I worked with prisoners in a medium security prison. Many came from communities that had no social network to move them into positions of productivity. They were part of the marginalized society.
Over the years I have kept an interest in cooperative movements. There are challenges against them, from within and from without. From within, they require a higher level of maturity for group decision making. From without, there are finance limitations from investors.
But once a cooperative takes hold, and it develops the internal institutions for mature decision making, you have a powerful business where people make more money and have more job security.
Two years ago I developed a new cooperative structure for entrepreneurs. As it turned out, France had done something similar in the 90’s. I was working with an organization that finances cooperatives. They had presented my structure at a conference in Washington, DC, and it was well-received.
Then the organization itself lost its biggest financial backer, and the project stopped. So, I went to the Hawaii State government and they liked the idea. They wanted to use my cooperative structure to help immigrants set up businesses. But they lost funding and the project stopped again.
The United States needs cooperatives, and Richard Wolff gives the main reasons in the video.
We have 3 worker-owned and collectively-managed businesses in Baltimore that I know of, and a bunch of collectives as well. I have always said if you hate corporate America start your own company and run it the way you want. I could easily see in 10 years some rivaling larger firms. Also keep in mind there are many private for-profit companies that treat their employees very well.
Red Emmas Bookstore Coffee Shop
Baltimore Bicycle Works
Civilization Systems is the first worker owned information technology services company in Baltimore.
Matt,Thanks for the links. I checked them out.
I drink Fat Tire beer because it is a cooperative.
Here is a link to a great coop in Humboldt county California.
The workers make from $18 to $25 an hour. in comparison with workers at private companies that make $8 to $12 an hour.
Here is another of a home healthcare coop on the Big Island of Hawaii. They have worked out some problems and keep growing. Anyone is free to call these businesses and ask about the cooperative business model. They are open to talking about their problems and benefits.
what is Mondragon doing today?
if it takes outside money….?
What do you mean…. takes outside money…?
you said two cooperative “projects” have failed because “they lost funding.” i was just asking what the deal is. without knowing more it seems to me that a “cooperative” that requires outside funding is not realistic.
and i wondered what has happened to Mondragon.
As I grow older and, presumably, slower, I cannot help responding to some things with: Maybe the planet called earth has lost the capacity to host the species called human.
I agree with this post but it does seem to say solutions lie in going back to a previous way of doing things. (You have to admit this seems somewhat familiar and really not all that innovative.) So what is human without forward innovation and is innovation doomed to be anti-species going forward?
Mondragon seems to be having big problems. I understand their Polish subsidiary has already declared bankruptcy, and their French subsidiary is about to. These are both manufacturers of domestic appliances. In France they are called Fagor-Brandt. They are the only remaining French maker of white goods, and they make top-quality products. We have used their stuff for years, and we have just re-equipped our kitchen with their appliances.
Mondragon refuses to save them, so I guess they are not doing so well in Spain either. No surprise considering the state of the economy there.
The French government is supposedly trying to find a savior, and it seems to me this would be a good buy for Whirlpool, which now subcontracts a number of its lines, and whose european products are generally inferior.
I would be surprised if this sub could be saved by a French coop structure, but I hope someone can save them so we can get spare parts in the future.
Here’s some late news on Mondragon, if you read French:
The good news is that the French govt has advanced Fagor- Brandt 10 million Euros, and two factories are back in operation.
The bad news is that Fagor, the Spanish appliance sub of Mondragon has also declared bankruptcy. Mondragon advanced 300 million Euros to try to save them but refuses to advance more.
According to the above article, when Mondragon buys or establishes a new subsidiary, they do not reorganize it as a cooperative until it is operating profitably. If one of their cooperatives goes bust or reduces staff, they have a guarantee fund that ensures that workers are substantially protected. I do not know, however, whether the appliance business was ever turned into a coop.
I agree that the issue of financial disparity in our society is egregious and threatens potentially cataclysmic resolution down the road. And I love the notion of worker co-ops. However to suggest that a particular corporate structure is the answer seems quite a reach. Any structure can be well & fairly run. Personally, my wish list to narrow the gap currently starts with reforming campaign finance, overturning the Citizens United ruling and following up with the prosecution of those criminally responsible at the Too Big To Fails.
Tom o t n,
The cooperative structure has advantages talked about in the video. The big advantage is that capital will not fly away leaving communities destitute. Another advantage is that local governments will be working with local residents for business support, instead of working with distant foreign companies that seek to take advantage of the local government.
These problems occur in other countries too. Japan used to have businesses for the employees, but now not so much.
A cooperative structure puts the control of the capital equipment and financing in the power of the community.
You will see as the years go by, more communities will be distressed from capital flight.