Cooperatives fall into two categories: worker and consumer.
The United States, following the tradition of England, is more
familiar with the concept of consumer cooperatives -- as
in food, housing and rural electric coops. The idea of the consumer
cooperative is to minimize prices paid by the owner/consumer either
directly on each purchase, or by distributing profits in the form
of patronage dividends at the end of the year. The consumer,
being also the owner, profits either way. The person exlcluded
in this deal is the worker who might wish for a higher wage.
should also be mentioned that cooperatives allow the consumer
greater control over quality of merchandise as well as
its price, which is why food cooperatives grew in proportion with
the health food industry)
best idea I've seen using the worker cooperative model is at Mondragon, in the Basque.
Economic development in this region is financed through worker
savings deposited in local credit unions. The credit unions make
investments through an advisory board in new production facilities,
increasing jobs makes greater wages which they deposit in the
credit unions, and so on. I met a lady in Kathmandu from Mondragon.
She was travelling through Asia. But she was guaranteed a job
when she returned, up to two years later, because the system is
job based. It creates jobs as its own source of funding.
idea of worker cooperatives became popular in the USA in the 80's
in the form of ESOP's -- worker stock-purchase plans usually arranged
to forestall or delay a plant closing and layoffs in an ill-managed
organization in an obsolete industry. Even where such offerings
were not a mere disguise for labor concessions, inviting workers
into the Board room presumes that they have some management and
can be drawn schematically by the way they disperse power. There's
the top-down hierarchy of power that resembles a pyramid. You
know this one -- the guy at the top, he's got his secretary and
three or four vice-pres's under him, under them, each has his
or her own crew, all the way down to the bottom where the work
generally gets done. At the bottom, they work; all the top, they