UnionCo-ops Council Website
Seven Co-op Principles
Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.
- VOLUNTARY AND OPEN MEMBERSHIP
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
- DEMOCRATIC MEMBER CONTROL
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
- MEMBER ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
- AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
- EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INFORMATION
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
- COOPERATION AMONG COOPERATIVES
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
- CONCERN FOR COMMUNITY
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members, often including financial donations.
Ten Union Co-op Principles
The principles below are the ten founding principles of Mondragon adopted in 1987. They are also the principles of the United Steelworkers Mondragon agreement in 2009.
- OPEN ADMISSION
The co-op will not discriminate in the admission of new worker-owners, except that the worker-owner must accept the Basic Principles and be capable of performing the work required.
- DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION
The principle of “one worker, one vote” shall prevail throughout the co-op, including the annual General Assembly and the election of the Board of Directors. Every worker-owner owns an equal share and has an equal vote through “one class” ownership.
- SOVEREIGNTY OF LABOR
Labor is the main factor for transforming nature, society and human beings themselves. As a result, Labor is granted full sovereignty in the organization of the co-operative enterprise, the wealth created is distributed in terms of the labor provided and there is a firm commitment to the creation of new jobs.
- INSTRUMENTAL AND SUBORDINATE NATURE OF CAPITAL
People are prioritized over profits. Providing and creating jobs are prioritized over increasing the marginal return on investments. As President Abraham Lincoln wrote in his first State of the Union address in 1861: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
- PARTICIPATION IN MANAGEMENT
“Ownership” must become more than just the value of a share. Workers must also undertake the responsibilities of ownership in the co-op by their participation in the management of the co-op, ensuring that the co-op remains accountable to its worker-owners.
- WAGE SOLIDARITY
Wage solidarity means there is less disparity among workers and the communities in which they live, reinforcing the equality and quality of ownership. In most cases, the highest paid worker in the Mondragon co-operatives makes no more than 5 to 7 times the lowest paid worker.
Just as workers benefit from working cooperatively in a business, so too can co-ops benefit from working cooperatively with other co-ops. Such an interdependent system of co-ops allows each co-op to create and share common resources such as financing, research and development, and training, as well as to support each other through down turns in the markets or the economy.
- SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
A key part of the co-op’s mission is to support and invest in their communities by creating jobs, funding development projects, supporting education, and providing opportunity.
The co-op supports all efforts to promote workplace democracy and promotes the co-operative model and culture as a means to achieve social and economic justice.
Education is valued as “the key to the development and progress of a people” and is critical to “democratize power”, as quoted from Mondragon’s founder, Father José María Arizmendiarrieta. Education and lifelong learning provide the tools for worker-owners to adapt and sustain the cooperative.