Worker co-ops, the Blue Green Alliance and Mondragon

Are worker owned co-ops sponsored by Mondragon of Spain, the United Steel Workers (USW), and the Blue Green Alliance (BGA) the future of alternative energy production in the U.S.? Activists in Cincinnati see great potential.

The national Blue Green Alliance began as a ground breaking alliance between the Sierra Club and the United Steel Workers to build a green economy based on worker justice and an emphasis on building an alternative energy future for our country. Presently the Blue Green Alliance includes the National Resources Defense Council, the Communication Workers of America, the Laborers Union of North America, the American Federation of Teachers, the Utility Workers Union of America and the Service Employees International Union, as well as the USW and the Sierra Club.

The United Steel Workers made an agreement with the highly effective worker co-op, Mondragon, to begin the process of building worker owned manufacturing cooperatives in North America.

This historic alliance fits together well with the efforts of the Sierra Club and the USW to build an alternative energy future based on worker justice. An overwhelming problem of job creation in our economy is the massive shift of the capitalist class removing money from production and putting it into speculation. The end result, of course, was the Wall Street crash. There is little evidence that the U.S. capitalist class has or will change their investment orientation. Many see the only power left in the land to help restore our manufacturing base is a labor, environmental, public coalition to build the green economy. Worker co-ops could be a key element in this effort to rebuild the manufacturing base.

The Blue Green Alliance in Cincinnati is developing in a strong grassroots way. The BGA here has had an emphasis on building a local activist presence, raising money for a ground breaking green jobs study, fighting for a living wage for recycling workers, and building the foundation for strong labor environmental cooperation. Cincinnati also has the remarkable advantage of having a direct connection with the Mondragon cooperatives through the faith based social justice community. In the early 90’s there was a tour of Mondragon originating in Cincinnati that included the local head of the AFL-CIO Building Trades at that time. This Irish Catholic labor activist, with deep roots in the Cincinnati community, returned to speak widely and enthusiastically about Mondragon. His speaking about worker owned cooperatives and Mondragon in particular came to a climax in a passionate speech to the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council.

The new developments between the United Steel Workers and the Mondragon cooperatives have begun the process of another tour to Mondragon from Cincinnati. Coinciding with this development is the upcoming release of Cincinnati’s first broad green jobs study. The remarkable coincidence of these developments on top of the current jobs crises provides a potential for historic opportunity.

In the United States there has been a 200 year history of cooperatives and utopian communities trying to escape the grinding oppression of capitalism. This very realistic initiative between the United Steel Workers and the Mondragon cooperatives is taking place in the heart of the manufacturing sector of the economy and provides the seed for some really important developments for working people in this economy where big business has deserted productive manufacturing investment in exchange for casino capitalism and massive profits from speculation. Perhaps Mondragon and the United Steel Workers have hit on a door to a brighter future. Activists in Cincinnati are on the threshold of joining in to see.

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