It is “cyber Monday” which follows “black Friday” for those of us in the US (and I imagine Canada to some extent. In any event, the Holiday shopping season has opened. Since I don’t have anything heavy to write about this week, I would like to suggest that people, when possible, buy from worker co-operatives. Why? Well, the people at NoBAWC spell it out very nicely, but you support a more sustainable economy. There is nothing about being “local” that means quality, eco-friendly, or worker friendly.
Our friends in Argentina have their goods available through The Working World’s Bazaar. In addition to footwear, clothing and even dog clothing, you can also get your own copy of the excellent documentary, The Take by Ari Lewis and Naomi Klein.
My friends at Equal Exchange have worked hard to make it easier for people who support Fair Trade and Worker Co-operatives to order on-line.
If your town isn’t home to worker co-op bakery, you can usually find Alvaradro Street Bakery and they take web orders.
Looking for books? Rainbow Books is a hybrid co-op and democratic work-place. Food For Thought can also use your help.
Check out the worker co-ops in your town (or the town of your friend). I am sure that most will be accommodating to make that great holiday gift whether it involves cab rides in Madison (Union Cab of Madison, my co-op) or a gift of cheese through Rainbow Grocery. Not to mention the many bike shops, cafés, bakeries, restaurants, and even services (cleaning, personal, etc).
I’ve focused on worker co-operatives in this post, but also consider the many consumer co-ops as well. We need to keep as much of our money in our community. The more we shop co-op the stronger our co-ops will be.
That’s another great post, in my book. I might add that the coopdirectory.org site lists food co-ops around the country. Some people may not even know the co-ops in their neighborhood. I was a long time member at the food co-op in Park Slope Brooklyn in NYC, NY, but lived on surbaban Long Island. After years and some extra effort, I finally located and successfully made a pass-by visit to a local food co-op, and a local credit union. I was able to raise the issue successfully with some people in a religious community I visited for services, and members of the area Sierra Club. The latter had some awareness of related efforts.
As for going national, I had read about Shore Bank Pacific in the former sus dev mag In Business. It’s an environmentally strong bank branch of a successful community bank based in Chicago, and started by a former social worker and some partners. About 10 years ago, I had opened an account with them, and at least for some time had that direct experience, since I was not aware of any local action. Credit Unions are definitely worth checking out in terms of local activity.
A caveat emptor that any of us as socially responsible, and aspiring solidarity co-op shoppers, might want to be aware of is the different levels of co-ops, corporatized and solidarity. Blue Diamond Almonds, for example, are a co-op, but appear heavily focussed on conventional, agro-industrial marketing. Many US electric co-ops, also, are not yet focussed on renewables or distributed generation by residential installations.
See my blog at socioeco-econ.blogspot.com for some suggestions in these regards.
Do it yourself, ourselves!
Sadly, Blue Diamond demutualized a couple of years ago. Paul Hazen discussed it during his efforts to keep Ace Hardware from following suit. The BD farmers have been fighting the new owners (the former managers and directors) over BD’s failure to make good on promises of increased profits.
Thank you for this important piece prioritizing purchasing and partnerships with co-ops over local. It raises two important points: 1) That we are participating in an economic movement dependent on utilizing each others’ services for strength, and 2) that we are operating in context of a wider co-operative economy that involves producer and consumer co-ops.
In our own co-ops we are committed to using each others’ skills to better our co-op. Extending that to using the services and products from other co-ops will build our relationship to each other, direct our hard earned resources to positive ends and build self sustainability into our movement.
Worker co-ops join producer and consumer co-ops in forming our co-operative economy. Though the responsibility to Go Co-op is on all co-operatives – it is the 6th co-operative principle – it is up to us as worker co-ops to make the argument that we are a part of something and demonstrate why it is important. In my experience there is no better way to encourage co-ops of different sectors and organizations of other aligned movements to use us, and to consider the value of worker ownership, than by worker co-ops demonstrating that we use each other as well.
In western MA and southern VT co-ops have dedicated resources to develop, support, and educate about worker co-operatives. To find out more, go to http://www.valleyworker.org
Member, Collective Copies
Staff Co-ordinator, Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives
Working for a Co-operative Economy