COOP made in USA – 2020 Edition

A dossier prepared by Enrico Massetti

With Videos: when connected to the internet Click on the images to activate the videos.

Uber and Lift drivers should be employees or independent contractors? Neither they should be APP-cooperators instead, controlling their APP.

This new edition of my book Coop Made in USA, first released in 2011, includes 79 videos, for over 11 hours of viewing, all active when connected to the internet, most of them realized by the cooperators. Still, with some surprises, I added them to make the content less boring, more entertaining, and lively.

I added a section on Electric cooperatives and their new role in bridging the rural divide to bring the internet to rural America, a major issue right now for a large part f the population in rural America.

I also added a section on recent developments in cooperatives, with the initiatives of the Evergreen Cooperatives and the Cleveland Foundation, and the cooperation by the USW with the Spanish Mondragon cooperatives. They are models of new ways the cooperative movement takes shape, outside of old established models.

I open a debate on what is real Innovation in the world in which we live: it’s only a new model of smartphone or an idea from a country kid is equally important for society? Who has an interest in convincing us that only a NEW PRODUCT deserves the title to be innovative? The billionaires backing the company that makes the product?

The Lusty Lady Theater gets a full video coverage, it’s past history now, but what they achieved stays for future memory.

I apologize to all the existing cooperators for the requests and suggestions I give them: they do not want to be a critique but rather a stimulus to do even better a job that I consider very successfully well done.

Where to buy the book

Abstract from the book

What is COOP made in USA?

A book? Yes, with 22,000 words.
A Video? Yes, with 74 Videos for more than 11 hours total when connected to the internet!

A Preview on how it works:
Videos: when connected to the internet Click on the images to activate the video.

Example of real life in today’s America.

We can’t ignore this example of real life in today’s America.

In the age of unemployment, downsizing, and outsourcing, where can a poor soul find a job? Well, maybe it’s time we create our own. 

Self-employment is an option and can seem free, but it’s hard to do everything yourself and find time for a non-work life. The worker-coop is an alternative to the isolation of self-employment and the exploitation of traditional jobs.

Worker-coops can be more satisfying than working for the man. Worker-owners don’t have a hierarchy, and they have more say over what the business does than traditional employees. 

Managing a coop, you still have to be responsible, maybe more so. But your coworker-owners will likely be more agreeable and more understanding of personal needs and quirks than middle-management at any corporation.

You will probably make more money by cutting out the investors and managers, unless you were one of them, in which case: welcome to egalitarianism! 

In typical low-paying industries, worker-owners can make several times what they were pulling in as employees.

Here you have instead a much better solution, an alternative to poverty!

From “how to Start A Worker Co-op” By Mira Luna

In the United States of America, cooperation exists, and “worker-owned cooperatives” have lived and prospered for many years, thanks to the widespread entrepreneurship spirit and the practice of democracy, taught at school, starting from the elementary grade. 

Cooperatives are part of the self-help tradition of America. Cooperatives are businesses organized by people to provide needed goods and services.

Cooperating APPs

Can what works for bicycles in Europe be used for cars in the USA?

There is a debate over California’s new effort to force Uber and Lyft to classify their car drivers as employees with full benefits, rather than independent contractors.

“As an independent contractor with flexibility and freedom, I drive when and where I want. It keeps me on the road, helping people through the pandemic,” Marcell Hawkins, a part-time Lyft driver, says. “Now some politicians want to shut us down. Protect independent work so we can keep providing your family with safe access to food and medicine.”

“The ultimate solution for Uber and Lyft is autonomy,” says Loup Ventures Managing Partner Gene Munster. “If this employee model simply doesn’t work, you are going to see these companies push even harder into autonomous systems, simply eliminating the drivers. ”

To eliminate the drivers means putting even more people to live homeless in the streets. Is this the only answer the wealthiest country in the world can come up with?

If one European smart software engineer can make the bicycle delivery APP in days, will software developers on the West or East coast, from Vermont or Texas be less capable? 

As for the investors pouring tons of money into these gig-economy companies, I have a warning recommendation: your investment could easily be in jeopardy when THE APP is available to anybody. The drivers already own the capital, their car, or bike, they pay for operating expenses, gas, insurance, and maintenance, in addition to all their costs. What are Uber and Lift providing? Just the APP, but they get the profits and the control to fire anyone with just a click on a computer screen.

The Green Mountain Spinnery

Kristy Glass Knits: Green Mountain Spinnery

Since their founding thirty seven years ago, they have been designing and producing richly colored, must-touch classic and contemporary yarns. The goals remain unchanged to this day. 

They want to create yarns of the highest quality, help regional sheep farming, and develop environmentally sound ways to process natural fibers. All the threads they use — alpaca, mohair, wool, TENCEL®, and organic cotton — are grown in the United States.

Si Se Puede!

¿Qué es una cooperativa? Conoce como funcionan

The idea of a women’s cleaning coop swiftly took root. Together with CFL staff, the participants chose the name Si Se Puede! and developed a 10-week curriculum to prepare themselves for starting the business. 

Classes covered rudimentary skills—from providing high-quality customer service, publicity, and promotion, and using the most effective and least toxic cleaning products. They also tackled more complex themes, from the nuts-and-bolts of democratic governance to analyzing different models for working cooperatively. 

The coop in 2011 had 28 members, immigrants from Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Each pays a $ 40 monthly fee for administrative expenses— including childcare and snacks during weekly meetings. While this fee will increase once the coop hires an office manager/scheduler, members like Cristina say that the dues are a small price to pay for what is received. 

She needs no prompting to sing Si Se Puede’s praises. “Now, thanks to the coop, I have jobs that take me three to five hours to complete,” Cristina says, “and I make the same amount I used to make for 12 hours of work. 

I can also control my hours, which has been the most significant benefit, especially now that I have two children. Plus, I’ve gotten so much help from other coop members. I don’t have any family in the United States, so the other coop members have become my family.”

Workers of the World, Incorporate

USW The Fighting Spirit

The United SteelWorkers union (USW) and Mondragon International announced in an unusual and historic move that they would be working together to establish Mondragon manufacturing cooperatives in the U.S. and Canada. 

The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC) is the world’s largest industrial workers cooperative, located in Spain’s Basque region. It employs almost 100,000 workers in 260 enterprises, 100 of them that cooperative that includes manufacturing, a university, research and development, social security mutual, and retail shops. 

In 2008, MCC reached annual sales of more than 16 billion euro, ranked as the top Basque business group, the seventh-largest in Spain.

Spanish Inspiration for the USW

Mondragon, Basque Country, Spain

In the cooperative world, Mondragon, despite criticism of the compromises that it has made in the face of globalization, is still the gold standard of success and has inspired many other cooperative initiatives in other countries.

USW and Mondragon made another connection. Discussions and meetings followed over the following year. They culminated in this historic agreement to create worker cooperatives in the manufacturing sector, either through worker buy-outs or new start-ups. Other aims include integrating collective bargaining with the cooperative model and exploring co-investing through the USW backed Quebec Solidarity Fund and Mondragon’s Eroski Foundation.

The United Steelworkers (USW) is the largest industrial union in North America, representing 1.2 million members in diverse industries. It is enormously significant for an association of this weight and history to reforge those alliances, in a time when labor unions and worker cooperatives drifted far away from their common roots. 

Some unions saw worker cooperatives as a way to eliminate the class struggle between owner and worker. It is a signal to the labor union movement and the broader public that organizations are part of the solution, not some alien phenomenon from a parallel universe. 

We fix the failed dream

The USW spokesman, Rob Witherell said that the collaboration was not a hard sell to most of their members. It is clear that Mondragon is a source of inspiration for many other initiatives to build economic democracy. The collaboration with the United Steelworkers raises the potential to a whole new sphere of possibilities.

The USW-Mondragon collaboration grew out of a USW ‘green industrial revolution’ project that created a partnership with Gamesa, a Spanish wind-turbine firm. It was to establish production in Pennsylvania by refitting shuttered steel plants. Gamesa has its base near Mondragon. 

It wasn’t long before one thing led to another: the union had been unfamiliar with the concept of worker coops, but once explained, they quickly ‘got it’ and were excited.

We continue to see rising unemployment, stagnant wages, cuts in benefits, deterioration of workplace conditions, and the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector. This announcement breathes hope of reviving our manufacturing base and rebuilding communities that have been devastated by plant closings. 

Pastry, from Arizmendi maybe, to end in Grand Stile?

The Origins of the Arizmendi Association

In San Francisco, during the 1970s, a wave of small worker cooperatives self-organized, and several local organizations formed to develop and support democratic businesses. The InterCooperative, a regional network, began publishing a directory listing score of cooperative and collective enterprises.

The Alternatives Center published a newsletter on cooperative activities and sold technical guides and videos on the cooperative process. The Democratic Business Association offered legal and organizational consultation. Some new cooperatives branched off from existing ones. The Cheese Board Collective, a local artisanal cheese and bread store cooperative in 1971, split the organization into two internal cooperatives when their pizzas sales grew tremendously. During its history, members left and opened a cooperatively run restaurant, a juice bar, and another cheese shop. With each of these divisions, the cheese Board lent money to the new developments but did not hold equity in them or require any future organizational relationship.

Few of the small cooperative businesses had the resources to pay for technical support. By the mid-1990s, only a handful of co-ops listed in the 1970 directory were still operating, and few support organizations were active. During this period, there was renewed interest in organizing cooperatives in the Bay Area. A new regional federation, the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives, began to meet informally. Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES), a nonprofit business incubator, was formed. In 1995, the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, a cooperative corporation, was founded. The organizers of the Arizmendi Association were three alumni of previous support organizations and included a veteran member of the Cheese Board.

Books for tourism in Italy, any interest?