By Rebecca Kemble
From the Progressive
October 12, 2011
[Kemble is a driver for Union Cab Co-op in Madison, WI]
I am in Quebec City this week to attend two worker-cooperative-related conferences. I am here as the president of the board of directors of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives together with the rest of the board, our staff and our Canadian and Quebequois counterparts. Joining us are cooperative movement leaders from Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and Argentina.
At the end of the week, we will officially sign a declaration and launch the North American regional body of CICOPA , the international organization of worker cooperatives. Worker cooperative federations in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil have formed a similar organization in their part of the world in the hopes of building toward a pan-American organization that has the capacity to resist the forces of neoliberal economic exploitation.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting in windowless hotel conference rooms with a group of amazingly dedicated, tenacious (and surprisingly funny) people who are developing organizational structures and institutional relationships based on solidarity that build meaningful working class power on an international scale.
Worker cooperatives are businesses that are owned and operated on democratic principles by the people who work in them. Because they are organized around the will, talents and needs of the human beings who work in them rather than the imperative of growth and ever-increasing profit margins, worker coops have the capacity to promote and extend new, humane and imaginative ways of meeting the material needs of people by producing and distributing goods and services in society.
When dozens, hundreds and thousands of these enterprises pool resources and cooperate with each other based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, a fundamental transformation of culture and society occurs. This has taken place most notably and enduringly in Mondragon, Spain, where worker co-ops drive the economy and fund and control social services, health care, retirement and education.
So as my heart breaks for the burning of Rome (or Athens), the life cycle of my family, the gutting of public education, the depth of the suffering and indignities visited on the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our communities through false austerity and punitive laws and policies, and the abuse being hurled at the brave, young people who dare to stand up for them, I redouble my efforts to strive with others through differences of opinions, communication styles and languages to build the worker cooperative movement. If the Basque people of Mondragon could do it under the iron fist of Franco, we can certainly do it here.
Rebecca Kemble  is an Anthropologist who studied decolonization in Kenya. She serves on the Board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and as the President of the Dane County TimeBank.