1worker1vote.org


  • Economic Opportunity

  • New York | Ohio | United States | Global Programs

  • Economically disadvantaged people

  • Public charity

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Executive Summary

Since the 1970s, America has counterbalanced high per capita GDP with increasingly unequal income distribution. Winners take all results produce stagnant wages, declining mobility, increased economic class divisions and racial tensions at levels not experienced since the Great Depression. We propose an intervention that binds high impact union solidarity with the democratic power of cooperative ownership giving more working people, especially those in distressed and underserved communities, genuine control over their economic lives. We adapt the Mondragon cooperative network model, the most successful model for transforming a poverty stricken region into a thriving community. We propose to set in motion 10 Mondragon Style Union Worker Cooperative ecosystems in diversified, under served U.S. economic communities, build a solidarity net tying them together, seed a top notch educational curriculum to train on a national scale, all buttressed by a Mondragon model inspired financing system to make replicating the model a doable accomplishment.

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The Problem

As inequality in the U.S. reaches pre Great Depression levels, something has to be done to increase opportunity for the majority. The poorest half of the U.S. owns 2.5% of the country's wealth while the top 1% owns 35% of the wealth. Some groups have been hit harder than others. The recession had a disproportionate impact on people of color, with the median wealth of Black households falling by 33.7% and Hispanic households falling by 14.3% from 2010 2013. African Americans and Native Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts. Inequality is not just a loss to its victims. Everyone loses when human potential is crushed by poverty, hopelessness and poor training and education. How many scientists, doctors and artists, how much invention, healing and productivity is ground beneath the wheel of unequal economic opportunity? Since the late 1970s, trickle down economic theory led to policies benefiting the wealthy. This approach failed, but its legacy persists, and a transformative new model has failed to take hold. The decline of unions mirrors increasing inequality. The weakening of unions began with passage of trade agreements and intensified with concerted attacks by some American corporations beginning in the 1980s. Various top down economic development approaches have been attempted with minimal success. The U.S. has seen some successful worker cooperatives, but these businesses have been a drop in the bucket, isolated entities unable to scale impact. The most resilient and impactful cooperatives globally are those that exist in an ecosystem of worker ownership.

Proposed Solution

During the last 60 years, the Mondragon cooperative network has transformed a region of Spain rife with poverty and unemployment into a thriving community that has weathered financial crises. With 70,000+ people employed, twelve worker owned cooperative technology labs and a cooperative university with over 850 patents, Mondragon has helped the Basque region score near the lowest in inequality according to the GINI Index. We benefit from a sixteen year embedded relationship with Mondragon, the 2009 United Steelworkers-Mondragon International MOU and a union co op template which CUCI has brought to life. We propose to catalyze 10 Mondragon Style Union Worker Cooperative ecosystems in diversified, under served U.S. economic communities, build a solidarity net tying them together, seed a top notch educational curriculum to train on a national scale, all buttressed by a Mondragon model inspired financing system to make replicating the model a doable accomplishment. We bring the transformative Mondragon ecosystem approach that differs from previous approaches. Historically, worker owned co ops in the U.S. have been treated as isolated entities resulting in nominal impact on the economy. Mondragon demonstrates what happens through pooling resources and building an integrated multi sector ecosystem. Our approach combines the labor and cooperative movements, unleashing the unique power of each. Tapping into the solidarity consciousness and national/international scale of the labor movement is necessary for the creation of a robust, integrated network. And the cooperative ownership consciousness of the co op movement leads to remarkable wealth generating results: five years after start up, 90% of cooperatives are still operating compared to 3 5% of traditional businesses.

Evidence of Effectiveness

In October 2015, Harvard Business School published a case study describing the trials and tribulations of transforming predatory capitalism into virtuous capitalism through an application of the Mondragon ecosystem model by 1Worker1Vote. The study analyzes Mondragon's capacity to recover from the 2013 insolvency of FAGOR, one of its largest cooperatives, and provides a resiliency road map for market cycle downturns as well as offering a dramatic contrast to the over sixty thousand U.S. plant closures since the 1992 signing of NAFTA. Mondragon is the world's largest and most resilient worker owned industrial cooperative scoring highest in combatting inequalities, with a mission to generate wealth for society under the one worker, one vote framework where labor is sovereign and capital, while essential, is subordinate to sustainable job creation. Created in early 2014, 1Worker1Vote evolved from the 2009 Mondragon International - United Steelworkers collaboration to connect this vision and values to people and put all three first. The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI), 1Worker1Vote's pilot project, has launched four cooperative initiatives, investigated three others, created 20 jobs and leveraged over $3 million in grants/loans since 2012. CUCI hosted union co op best practices international conferences in 2013/2015, with hundreds of attendees. CUCI's Our Harvest Co op (2012) doubled revenue each year during its first 3 years and obtained a commercial loan for expansion. CUCI's Apple Street Market, a full service community and worker owned grocery store in a local food desert with over 1100 community owners, collaborates to scale (CUCI supports the Greater Dayton Union Co op Initiative to replicate Apple Street).

Previous Performance

The executive director of 1Worker1Vote played a pivotal role in the 2009 Mondragon United Steelworkers agreement to adapt collective bargaining principles to the Mondragon model in the United States. He was also instrumental in the collaboration between U.S. National Cooperative Bank (NCB) and Mondragon's bank, Laboral Kutxa, for worker co op financing (September 2013); helped lead the NCB - Credit Unions financial products for worker cooperatives learning mission to Mondragon (July 2016); and co developed the September 2016 AFL CIO DC headquarters summit on extending the union coop model nationwide. The August 2014 United Steelworkers' constitutional resolution #27 supporting 1Worker1Vote and the October 2015 Harvard Business School's case study on 1worker1vote.org: Mondragon in the U.S. are references. Since 2012, Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative has organically launched four cooperative initiatives, investigated three others, created 20 jobs and leveraged over $3 million in grants/loans. CUCI hosted union coop best practices international conferences in 2013/2015, with hundreds of representatives from Mondragon and 20 states. CUCI's Our Harvest Co op (2012) doubled revenues each year during its first three years and obtained a commercial loan for expansion. CUCI's Apple Street Market, a full service community and worker owned grocery store in a local food desert with over 1100 community owners, collaborates to scale (CUCI supports the Greater Dayton Union Co op Initiative to replicate Apple Street). CUNY Law School (ranked #1 nationally for public interest and second in diversity) through the Community Economic Development Clinic back stops the creation of New York City's $5 million funded worker cooperative ecosystem ("Worker Owned and Unionized Worker Owned Cooperatives: Two Tools to Address Income Inequality").

The Team

Team Purpose

Our team consists of 1Worker1Vote, Cincinnati Union Co op Initiative (CUCI), and the Community Economic Development Clinic at City University of New York Law School (CEDC). 1Worker1Vote and Mondragon International North America are building a national network of unionized worker owned cooperative businesses to overcome inequality of opportunity, mobility, and income. CUCI has brought the first local integrated network of Mondragon style union co ops into being. CUCI is sharing lessons learned and supporting the development of additional union co op initiatives around the country. CEDC exists to address economic inequality in marginalized communities and has played a key role in advancing the necessary legal work for the union co op movement. Together, we propose to set in motion 10 Mondragon Style Union Cooperative Initiatives in under served communities and build a solidarity net tying them together that will push back on inequality in the United States, create family sustaining jobs, and build community wealth for those that have been historically excluded.

Team Structure

1Worker1Vote will lead the project. Michael Peck, the Mondragon North American delegate for 16 years, is the Executive Director. He is in daily communication with Cincinnati Union Co op Initiative (CUCI) and Community Economic Development Clinic at CUNY (CEDC) and convenes regular calls with partners. 1Worker1Vote will connect and integrate the national network, scale partnerships around the country (especially connected to technology, finance and portable benefits), spearhead community college co op curriculum implementation, spearhead communication and marketing for the union co op movement, and be responsible for accounting. CUCI will continue to accelerate its impact in Cincinnati developing union co ops (businesses owned and directed by workers; utilizing the collective bargaining process; based on the Mondragon principles) and support the other nine geographies to replicate the Mondragon style union co op ecosystem CUCI has been building for the past five years. CEDC will coordinate the legal work of future union co ops (sharing templates and best practices and partnering with local lawyers).