“If the cotton lord and the millionaire come here and hire you to build factories, . . . when the factory is erected they own it, and they set their price upon your labor and your wool or cotton–they have dominion over you. But, if by your own efforts and exertions, you cooperate together and build a factory, it is your own. . . . The profits are divided among those whose labor produced it, and will be used to build up the country. Hence, it is not capital that is, it is not so much money that is needed. It is unity of effort on the part of the bone, sinew, skill and ingenuity which we have in our midst.”
— Apostle George A. Smith on the Provo Woolen Mills
Producer cooperatives are an old form of worker ownership that began with the ideas of Robert Owen in Scotland, the Mormon pioneers in the 1830s to 1870s, and the Rochdale co-op founded in England in the 1840s. Today over 800 million people around the globe are members of housing co-ops, food co-ops, etc. They may work in high-tech manufacturing co-ops or in large scale agricultural co-ops. From the Basque workers’ cooperative complex, Mondragón, in Northern Spain, a sophisticated complex with 60,000 worker-owners, to farmers’ co-ops in Kenya and Bolivia, the cooperative movement is growing. Over the past three decades, I’ve enjoyed consulting with, and/or carrying out research on co-ops in over 20 countries.
In the contemporary scene across Canada and the U.S., Britain, France, and Scandinavia, throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there are thousands of financial co-ops such as credit unions, cooperative universities, and schools at all levels, retail co-ops, and software engineering co-ops–all are based on the radical idea that collaboration yields greater synergy than individualism and competition.
“Technical Training & Enterprise: Mondragon’s Educational System & its Implications for other Cooperatives,” (with Christopher Meek) Economic and Industrial Democracy, 1990, Vol.11, pp. 505-528.
“The Next Stage of Mondragon: Innovations in Ownership by Workers.” Chapter in Global Human Resources. ICFAI University Press, 2006.
Worker Cooperatives From the 20th Century to the New Millenium: The Rise of Social Enterprises, Canadian Cooperative Center, Toronto, Canada, 2004, 208 pages.
“Re-Steeling The U.S.”, Worker Coops, Vol. 8, No. 4, Spring 1989, pp. 13-16. Reprinted in Employee Ownership: The United Steelworkers of America’s Experience, USWA Research Department, Pittsburgh, October 1989.
“Managing From Below,” Journal of Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1986, pp. 391-402.
“The Third Stage of Cooperation in the United States”. Annals of Public and Co-operative Economy, Vol. 56, No.3, 1984, pp. 239-252.
“Towards a Labour Owned Economy in the United States”. Labour and Society, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1981, pp. 41-56.
“Forms of Employee Ownership and Workers’ Control”. Sociology of Work and Occupations, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1981, pp. 195-200.
“One becomes a cooperator through education and the practice of virtue. . . . We need each other; we are called upon to complement each other. The man who can stand solitude is either a god or a beast, as a celebrated philosopher has stated. And this means that social classes need each other and should collaborate; this means that the people and the authorities must not live divorced from each other. This means that institutions must offer mutual aid, that we must sincerely pursue what we claim, that is the common good, there is no reason for exclusivity. . . . For this purpose it is not enough that the bosses undertake and do good things. It is necessary that the workers participate in these things, so that a real communion among them exists. It is not enough that the workers dream of great reforms, if the bosses or entrepreneurs do not contribute to their realization, providing their zeal, their technical knowledge and skills, their experience. . . . Where this fusion and spontaneous and generous collaboration has not been achieved, there is no real social life, and . . . peaceable relations will be superficial or fictitious.”
— Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, Catholic priest and mentor to the Mondragon Cooperative System
“Labor can and will become its own employer through cooperative associations…What I believe is, the time has come when the laboring men can perform for themselves the office of becoming their own employers…[They] possess sufficient intelligence…to enjoy the entire benefits of their own labor.”
— Leland Stanford, founder of the U.S. Central Pacific Railroad and Stanford University, California Governor and U.S. Senator