Every once in a while I find some bit of news that’s not only good, but genuinely exciting; that’s really positive and makes me, well, hopeful.  Today I stumbled on just such news.  It came to me in the form of Tuesday’s announced partnership between the United Steelworkers (USW) and Mondragon Internacional.  USW, of course, is the largest industrial union in the United States, representing over 1.2 million current and retired workers from a variety of sectors.  But you might not have heard of Mondragon: they’re a behemoth corporation with over 260 separate entities under their purview- and every single aspect of Mondragon, from top to bottom, is collectively owned and run by their over 100,000 members.  Mondragon originated in 1956 in the rural Basque region of Spain, and is actually Spain’s 7th largest corporation.  Those 260 separate entities I mentioned operate in over 40 different countries around the world in an almost bizzarly diverse array of sectors, from industrial manufacturing to retail to financial services to construction and, seemingly, almost everything in between.  And, yes, all of it collectively owned and managed by the workers themselves.

The partnership between USW and Mandragon is not only promising, but has the potential to completely re-shape economic recovery in the U.S..  From their joint statement about the collaboration:

“We see today’s agreement as a historic first step towards making union co-ops a viable business model that can create good jobs, empower workers, and support communities in the United States and Canada,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “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.”

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.”

Highlighting the differences between Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and union co-ops, Gerard said, “We have lots of experience with ESOPs, but have found that it doesn’t take long for the Wall Street types to push workers aside and take back control. We see Mondragon’s cooperative model with ‘one worker, one vote’ ownership as a means to re-empower workers and make business accountable to Main Street instead of Wall Street.”

And in there is exactly the point: when businesses (be they manufacturing plants, construction companies, retail operations, financial services, whatever) are firmly rooted and invested in the people and places where they exist- not out of some abstract idea or feel-good community relations ploy, but because the “business” itself is the very people who are the community- then there is no question of moving jobs oversees, of outsourcing, of benefit cuts for the bottom and pay increases for the top.  Businesses which are in fact the community, and not a bottom-line promoter for Wall Street, or a handful of profit-driven CEO’s are good employers, good neighbors, and good stewards of of the environment; because it’s themselves and their friends and family that they’re employing, it’s their actual neighbors, and their own environment which is all to be not only protected, but even enhanced by their actions.  Win, win, win (for everyone except, well, Wall Street).

So cheers to this welcome development.  I’ll be keeping a close eye on how they progress.

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