May 05, 2010


A recent article in The Nation about European labor practices reminded me of the Mondragon worker cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain.

Founded by Father José Maria Arizmendiarrieta in the bitter aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the Mondragon worker-owned cooperatives now employ almost 100,000 workers/owners in a variety of industries ranging from manufacturing to finance. They are by far the most successful examples of how a business organization based on worker-ownership and control can survive and compete in a global economy. I was glad to learn that Mondragon had weathered the most recent recession and was still going strong.

Cooperatives have had a pretty tough row to hoe in the US, but as Steven Hill wrote in the article cited above,

They produce an estimated 12 percent of the GDP in the European Union and involve, directly or indirectly, at least 60 percent of the population.

Last fall, the United Steelworkers of America announced a partnership with Mondragon in order to work toward making union worker cooperatives a viable alternative in the US economy. Union president Leo Gerard said that

“Too often we have seen Wall Street hollow out companies by draining their cash and assets and hollowing out communities by shedding jobs and shuttering plants. We need a new business model that invests in workers and invests in communities.”

At the time, Josu Ugarte, President of MONDGRAGON Internacional added

“What we are announcing today represents a historic first – combining the world’s largest industrial worker cooperative with one of the world’s most progressive and forward-thinking manufacturing unions to work together so that our combined know-how and complimentary visions can transform manufacturing practices in North America.”

While nobody knows what seeds will grow from that effort, it is high time to consider economic alternatives that meet the needs of both workers and consumers.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH, a watchdog group is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Massey Energy officials.

POTS, KETTLES. Massey CEO Don Blankenship has called critics of his organization evil, as Ry Rivard reports in the Daily Mail.

MIGHT AS WELL THROW THIS IN. This post from the AFLCIO blog argues that union mines are safer, a belief shared by lots of people.

SAD TO SAY, there was another mining death in WV yesterday. As coal Uber-Blogger Ken Ward pointed out here, this is the way most miners die: one at a time.

NOTE: This post was scheduled for publication Tuesday night as El Cabrero is on the road. If anything bad happens between now and then, let the record show that I was against it.


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