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Wellspring Cooperative

Wellspring Labor Co-ops Committee (WLCC)

Mission Statement

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: 

  • educating unions about worker co-ops;
  • raising public awareness about unions and worker co-ops working together;
  • engaging unions in building cooperatives as part of systemic economic and social change; 
  • Identifying opportunities to work with unions to develop co-ops, especially through conversions.
  • pushing for policy and legislation through political advocacy; and
  • advising/supporting/promoting union affiliation within Wellspring Cooperative Corporation and our co-ops.

Events to date

  • Wellspring Co-op Corporation Annual Meeting Springfield, MA 12/6/18
  • MA Worker Co-op / Solidarity Economy Gathering Worcester, MA 3/16-17/19
  • Odyssey Bookshop Prospects for a Cooperative Economy S. Hadley, MA 4/11/19
  • Labor / Worker Co-op Engagement Amherst, MA  4/25/19
  • Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council Springfield, MA 4/26/19
  • Labor Day Webinar 9/3/20

Founding

The Wellspring Labor Co-ops Committee was founded in September 2018 by the Wellspring Co-op Corporation Board.

Committee Members

  • Jon Weissman, Single-Payer MA
  • Mary Hoyer, Union Co-ops Council of US Federation of Worker Co-ops
  • Jeff Jones, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459
  • Lynn Duggan, Indiana University Labor Center
  • Boone Shear, University of MA Department of Anthropology
  • Patrick Burke, Hampshire Franklin Central Labor Council and UAW Local 2322
  • Emily Kawano, Wellspring Co-op Corporation Co-Director
  • Fred Rose, Wellspring Co-op Corporation Co-Director

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. 

Contact Emily Kawano at emilykawano@gmail.com, Fred Rose at fredrose4560@gmail.com, or any of the Committee members above.

 

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 

 

Educational Resources

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/

1worker:1vote  http://1worker1vote.org/

Union Co-ops United Kingdom Manifesto Download the Manifesto

United Steelworkers Mondragon Resolution      

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/