unioncoops – Union Outreach


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The idea of labor unions and co-operative businesses working together toward common goals is not a new one in the United States. There is a long history of unions forming and/or existing symbiotically with worker co-ops. However, knowledge of that history has now largely been lost. It is time to reclaim this history—and to act on it.

While the U.S. labor movement is in crisis, the U.S. co-op movement is growing. From the stand point of unions, there is something to learn from that. And conversely, unions bring a wealth of knowledge and resources to the table which, if deployed effectively, could be of great benefit to those building a cooperative economy. Working together offers an opportunity to develop creative strategies that build on our shared values of building an economy that works for everyone, and bringing democracy to our workplaces.

This proposal is aimed at taking the first step along this road in one community—Portland, Oregon. It is not a blueprint for union/co-op collaboration, but rather a call for an initial meeting of locally based folks in both movements, as well as other allies, to begin articulating a common vision and crafting a concrete plan for working together.

Proposal to Start a Dialogue

Because so much of the history of collaboration between Labor and worker co-operatives has been lost, basic ground work must be laid to build support for embracing this “new” strategy. This proposal seeks to accomplish that goal by addressing these key points:

1. Support for this strategic approach is sufficiently novel that it will not be easily embraced by the decision makers within unions (i.e. the rank and file membership and elected officers) unless it is seen as emerging from the “ground up.” Existing members of unions must feel a sense of investment in this program by gaining useful information about, and having meaningful input in, the development of a Union/Co-op strategy.

2. The co-op movement must act as an equal partner in the development of this Labor/Co-op effort.

3. Strategies and work plans must be developed that take advantage of on the unique strengths and the knowledge bases of both the labor and co-op movements.

4. Other outside partners with aligning interests must be must be brought into this discussion as much as possible and as early as possible.

With these goals in mind, we propose that the Labor and Co-op working group of the United States Federation of Worker Co-ops co-sponsors a one day visioning meeting and training to be held in Portland, OR.

Who will attend?

Attendees at this meeting could include rank and file union members, officers and staff from unions in the Portland area, representatives of existing co-ops in the Portland area, interested potential allies such as the Working Families Party* (and others to be determined), and members of the Union/Co-op working group of the USFWC.

Possible Agenda

The agenda of the one day meeting will be aimed at giving equal time to open brainstorming and to developing concrete action plans, timelines, and next steps. Strong consideration should be given to enlisting the support of a trained facilitator(s), possibly from the Oregon Labor Education and Research Center (LERC).

Next Steps

1. Form a planning sub-committee of interested people from the Portland area and with at least one representative from the Union/Co-op working group.

2. Select a date and place for the meeting.

3. Draft an agenda for the gathering—potentially in concert with an outside facilitator such as LERC.

4. Recruit participation of a diverse cross section of participants for the visioning meeting.Type in the content of your page here.



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