Michael Peck, Mondragon Cooperative delegate in North America, speaking at recent USW press conference in Pittsburgh
Steelworkers Announce 'Union Model' for
Bringing Worker-Owned Coops to the U.S.
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
The United Steel Workers and the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation-the largest industrial union in the U.S. and the world's largest network of worker-owned cooperatives respectively-held an upbeat press conference at USW headquarters in Pittsburgh March 26, announcing new progress in their innovative two-year-old partnership.
"For American workers, the traditional corporate model for organizing production and producing jobs has broken down," stated Tom Conway, USW International Vice-President for Administration. "It's simply not fair, and we're not afraid to try something different."
For those unfamiliar with Mondragon, 'something different' was inspired by the Steelworkers investigation into the Mondragon cooperatives (MCC) in Spain's Basque country. MCC is a 50-year-old thriving and ongoing experiment in radical democracy consisting of some 120 worker-owned cooperatives involving nearly 100,000 workers and allied with another 130 allied coops in the region, with revenues in 2011 of some $24 billion.
The MCC coops operate one the basis of one worker, one share, one vote-and no one outside MCC holds any shares. It is the leading edge of the Spanish industrial economy.
The USW took note of MCC after a successful effort with the cutting edge Spanish wind turbine firm, GAMESA, to build three innovation green energy factories in Pennsylvania. While not part of Mondragon, GAMESA and MCC shared a common representative in the U.S., Michael Peck, who then took a USW team to Spain to visit MCC.
Leo Gerard, the USW's president, has long been an advocate for a 'clean energy and green manufacturing industrial revolution' as a progressive way out of the current economic crisis. But given the conflicted and deadlocked Congress on such matters, little is being done on the matter trough traditional channels. Hence the turn toward the Mondragon partnership.
After the initial announcement of the joint effort in the fall of 2009, little was heard about any progress on the matter. Yesterday's press conference, however, revealed what was going on behind the curtains. There were three major projects underway.
The first was the production of 'Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Communities: The Union Coop Model.'Read more!