Looking at worker cooperatives

Last night, the BBC America World News ran a clip about worker cooperatives in Argentina, evidently recycled from a domestic BBC report from last October. More than perhaps anywhere else — Spain might be the exception — Argentina’s worker-owned cooperatives pick up and recover what scraps the owners of failed businesses left behind. And it seems to me the greatest resource was the workers themselves. It’s easy to romanticize any cooperative venture, so I mentally added in the inevitable bickering, angst and fear of recreating and re-establishing a business.

Worker-owned cooperatives are pretty thin here in the United States. Perhaps the most famous ones are Equal Exchange, the source of many a Unitarian Universalists’ Sunday morning coffee and Frontier, the herb and spice supplier. (Here’s a US worker cooperative organization to note.)

Even though I do not work for a cooperative, they promise to be important in my buying decisions. Put plainly, I cannot think of a better protection against unjust labor practices than buying from worker cooperatives. Even better than union suppliers.

As it happens, you (Americans anyway; I don’t know how far they ship) can buy from some of the Argentine worker coops, including the balloon maker featured in the clip.

The Working World

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


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