The Mondragon Cooperative Experience:
A Model for Richmond, California?
By Gayle Mclaughlin
Imagine a world where businesses derive their power from the people who work there and capital is used as a tool to serve the people, instead of the other way around, as is the case with conventional corporations. A world of true workplace democracy, where each worker has an equal say in how the business is run. A world where workers pool and leverage their resources to start new businesses and create new jobs. A world where top managers earn no more than 6-7 times the salary of the lowest paid workers and everyone has a secure and decent standard of living. A world where education, training and innovation are abundant. A world without lay-offs.
I had the opportunity to immerse myself in just such a world last week in the Basque region of Spain, where I attended an intensive five-day seminar at the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, along with 25 worker cooperative enthusiasts and practitioners from all over the US and Korea. The first Mondragon cooperative started 56 years ago with a few people under the visionary guidance of Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, and it has grown into an extensive network of 120 industrial, financial, retail and education cooperatives with over 16 billion euros in sales and employing about 100,000 people.