Sunday, January 10, 2010


Disappeared labor news: the Mondragon/United Steelworkers alliance

by Larry Geller

Labor news is almost always disappeared news in this country. I’m sure that this is deliberate, and part of the reason for the decline of unionization in recent decades.

Sam Smith highlighted this story (pdf) in the current edition of his Progressive Review, writing in part:


Last fall, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, a multibillion dollar cooperative based in the Basque region of Spain, formed an alliance with the United Steelworkers, the largest industrial trade union in the U.S. The two announced that they would develop Mondragon manufacturing cooperatives in the United States and Canada that would "adapt collective bargaining principles."

This is one of the most important labor stories of the year but it has gotten tiny attention in the conventional press. In the Cooperative Business Journal, Erbin Crowell
examined the history and implications of this development.

If you don’t know about the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, this article (click on first link above) will be a good introduction. Otherwise, there is Google.

The Mondragon Cooperatives are different from ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) in very significant ways. Control stays with the employees. ESOPs are often taken over, but the Mondragon model is different. It is not based on stock ownership but rather on 'one worker, one vote' ownership.

This arrangement removes the adversarial relationship between labor and capital.

I’m sure steel could be made within this model, but not so sure how a steel plant might be acquired. Also, with manufacturing continuing to decline in this country, will there be a demand for steel anyway? I know these are superficial and naive questions. Perhaps more information on the Mondragon/United Steelworkers relationship will come out in the future.


Thanks, Larry. So little labor news otherwise!

So what happened, Larry? Did the collaboration between the Mondragon and United Steelworkers fail? There doesn't seem to be any news lately about this endeavor, and that troubles me. How can I learn more about it?

Good question... maybe I can find out something.

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