In this statement on developing worker cooperatives in unionized workplaces, the Union Coops Council affirms the council’s work of creating a strong relationship between worker cooperatives and organized labor.
Check out the statement below and on the Union Coops Council Website!
The Union Coops Council is a USFWC member council with open bimonthly meetings. Join the Union Coops Council this week for its bimonthly call on Friday, June 11 at 1pm ET/10am PT, with council updates and a presentation from Jonny Sopotiuk of VALU Co-op and the Union Cooperatives Initiative based in Canada. Register here.
Statement on Developing Worker Cooperatives in Unionized Workplaces from the USFWC Union Co-ops Council
Worker cooperatives are part of, and integral to, the labor movement. Worker cooperatives achieve the goal of the labor movement, i.e. returning the means of production to the ownership of the workers and achieving 100% workplace democracy.
The cooperative movement and the trade union movement both have deep roots in liberation struggles for economic independence, from reconstruction and the ongoing fight to build Black economic power in the United States, to post-industrial revolution Manchester, UK, and even further back, to indigenous methods of mutual care. Labor unions and worker cooperatives are not an “either/or” option of organization but work together in solidarity to achieve similar goals. Each path provides the means for workers to have power and influence in their daily work lives. While cooperative ownership may bring additional earnings through the sharing of surplus and foster human dignity through worker control, the union movement has a rich history of raising the floor for entire sectors of workers, and assuring industry regulations, workplace safety, and agreements for wages and hours. Together, worker cooperatives and labor unions improve conditions for workers across the board. These all build a broader environment for good work.
Worker cooperatives have become an increasingly popular model for businesses seeking to plan their succession of ownership. Union workplaces are often prime spaces for conversions to worker-ownership. Workers in unionized workplaces already practice workplace democracy through the selection of their labor unions, elections of union leaders, and development and ratification of union contracts. Similarly, a collective bargaining agreement already created by a union can effectively be or become the policy manual that governs a worker cooperative. On a very pragmatic level, union cooperation supports a smooth and equitable shift to worker ownership.
Many cooperative developers have entered the field to support these conversions, and we encourage more support for helping workers purchase their businesses as worker cooperatives. We also want to affirm that worker co-ops can emerge in sectors and workplaces where labor organizing is taking place – in collaboration with the unions organizing there. Worker cooperatives and unions go hand in hand to resist exploitation and secure power for workers. If the worker cooperative community is used as a tool to leverage against traditional collective bargaining strategies, it hurts both the labor movement and worker co-ops. The worker co-op movement is not and must not be antagonistic to labor unions.
We look forward to continuing to explore how worker cooperatives and labor unions can combine their organizational strategies. We offer this statement in the spirit of solidarity, a value shared by both the cooperative and the labor movement. Labor Unions and worker cooperatives have the same historical roots, and finding modern methods for these parts of the labor movement to work together will create stronger communities and greater support for the larger cooperative movement and well as greater success for worker cooperatives and labor unions.
The Executive Committee of the Union-Coop Council, U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives