The Wellspring Labor Co-ops Committee focuses on engagement with unions and the broader labor movement in support of building cooperatives as well as broader systemic change for a more just, democratic, and sustainable future by:
Events to date
The Wellspring Labor Co-ops Committee was founded in September 2018 by the Wellspring Co-op Corporation Board.
Please consider joining the Wellspring Labor Co-op Committee. We’ve been meeting monthly for about an hour on the 4th Friday of each month at 11:00 (adjustable), occasionally face-to-face but more often by conference call.
What is a Union Cooperative?
Unions build worker power by organizing workers, taking on management in contract negotiations, and by fighting on the shop floor. But some locals and internationals are reviving an old tactic and allying with worker cooperatives, companies that are wholly owned by and run by their workers. Unions are doing this to save jobs, build worker power, nurture community alliances, and secure new members.
In a worker cooperative, the workers are the owners. They set their own wages and working conditions, but also make all the business decisions. In larger cooperatives, workers often govern the business through works councils and an elected board that appoints the managers. Unionized coops have collective bargaining agreements, but the relationship between the union and the “employer” (their members) is different.
Why use this model?
Separately, unions and cooperatives face enormous challenges. For unions, the ability to secure good contracts has diminished as membership continues to shrink and employers’ power continues to grow. For worker-owned cooperatives, challenges include access to broader support networks as well as access to the investments and loans needed to grow their businesses or to start up new cooperatives, especially in capital-intensive sectors such as manufacturing. Together, unions and cooperatives have the potential to create sustainable jobs that support sustainable communities, the potential to organize workers and workplaces in whole new ways, and even the potential to fundamentally transform our economy and our society for the better. (Rob Witherell, International Journal of Labor Research, 2013, v.5, n.2)
Where is this happening?
In the United States today, a few locals, central labor councils, and international unions are already seeing themselves as part of the same movement with worker cooperatives. In 2009, United Steelworkers announced an alliance with the largest worker co-op network in the world, Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain. Service Employees International Union 1199 represents workers at Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, NY, which is the largest worker co-op in the country with 860 worker-owners. Craft unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are finding their apprenticeship programs and benefits now provide vital support to workers in unionized worker co-op like Pacific Electric in Los Angeles. Sheet metal workers in Wisconsin, movers in NY, and practical nurses in California are exploring worker co-ops as a way to bid for jobs employ their union’s members on jobs that contractors otherwise ignore. In Western Massachusetts, Collective Copies, a worker-owned print/copy/publishing enterprise, was initiated by workers in a struggle with management supported by their union, United Electrical.
2020 WLCC Labor Day Webinar - September 3rd, 2020
Patrick Burke on the history of labor/co-op collaboration
Mary Hoyer on current efforts at labor/co-op collaboration
Labor Day webinar breakouts 1-4
Other Labor Day webinar segments
UNION Coops Council of U.S. Federation of Worker Coops Webinar - February 12, 2021
Click on the links below for additional information if you want to learn more about labor cooperatives
Union Co-ops Council of US Federation of Worker Co-ops https://unioncoops.wordpress.com/
Union Co-ops United Kingdom Manifesto Download the Manifesto
Rob Witherell USW on Union 3.0 https://owningabetterfuture.com/2020/08/02/union-3-0-worker-ownership-and-the-future-of-the-labor-movement/