On December 21, 1843, a small group of men and women joined together to open the Rochdale Pioneer Society. This became the first “modern-era” cooperative in the English speaking world. The cooperative was based on simple principles: provide quality goods and services at a reasonable price and provide a decent place of employment. Since then, cooperatives have blossomed to include every aspect of human enterprise. Today, the cooperative model includes financial institutions and insurance (credit unions and mutuals), consumer cooperatives, producer cooperatives, housing cooperatives, and worker cooperatives. While the services and goods provided by cooperatives and credit unions are as divergent as the people using and providing them, all cooperatives and credit unions are bound by a single identity. Simply put, cooperatives are democratically controlled enterprises. They operate on the basis of “one-member, one-vote” instead of “one share, one vote”. We present the following resources for those who would like to learn more about cooperatives, who are considering starting a cooperative or who would like to strengthen their existing cooperative.
WHAT IS A CO-OP?
In 1843, the Rochdale Pioneers set forth a statement of principles. These became known as the Rochdale Principles. Over the years, they have been amended several times by succeeding generations. In 1995, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) voted to add a list of values, ethics and a definition. In addition to the Statement on Cooperative Identity (re-posted below), in 2005, the ICA General Assembly also approved the World Declaration on Worker Cooperatives. This declaration attempts to further define the unique nature of worker ownership. To read this declaration, either hit the link above to download a PDF version or go to the CICOPA web site .
THE STATEMENT ON THE COOPERATIVE IDENTITY
A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The cooperative principles are guidelines by which Cooperatives put their values into practice.
1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership–without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Individuals serve as elected representatives and are accountable to the members. In primary Cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.
3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocated surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5th Principle: Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their Cooperatives. They inform the general public–particularly young people and opinion leaders– about the nature and benefits of co-operation.
6th Principle: Co-operations Among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7th Principle: Concern for Community
Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.
Doing It Better, Together
At a worker co-op, you will be talking to someone who is invested in the quality of their service, the quality of their product, and ultimately the quality of the business as a whole.
Invest in the Community
Co-op workers tend to live in the community they work in, so they are more likely to understand and invest in the needs of the community.
Efficient from the Ground Up
Businesses run by single owners or absentee boards tend to come up with strategies that make sense only in the short term. Businesses run by people who work there adopt practices that make long term sense.
Built with Values
Whereas the bottom line for a traditional business is making money for the owner, worker co-ops are communities of people who have come together for a common goal. Sustaining their business financially is one goal, but almost never the only one.
Strong Local Economies
Because the workers who operate the business own it, there is no outside entity to take the profits and spend it elsewhere. Most money spent at a worker-owned business will stay in your local community.
Democracy All Day
Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours in a workplace. No matter how democratic our political system becomes, if our workplaces are private dictatorships, we will never be free.
Credit - UNIONCABS