Towards a Cooperative Legislative Education Foundation

Cooperatives need to start being engaged in the development of public policy. This doesn’t mean taking sides in the bipartisan wars that often force US citizens to choose which party to support: the party supported by Wall Street that wants to eliminate regulations and the party supported by Wall Street that supports some regulation.

The Corporatists already have a thriving organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council.They have become quite newsworthy over the last year as state after state has begun passing laws developed at their conventions and in their think tanks. As The Center for Media and Democracy has shown, this 30 year project of the Corporatists to destroy Keynesianism and even revert back to the days prior to the Sherman Anti-trust Act, has been behind significant legislation that has undone decades of the social contract in the United States.

We can wring our hands about this, or we can learn the lessons worth learning. Our elected representatives have little time to learn about new ideas. They need people to help inform them and even draft proposed legislation. There is nothing wrong with concerned citizens doing this. The problem is that only one side of the multi-factor equation is really acting along these lines and that is ALEC.

I propose that we worker co-operators (and maybe even the other sectors as well) form a similar think-tank. We need to start working together to develop public policy that promotes the ethics, values and principles of co-operatives. These proposals will create a more sustainable community and provide the antidote to the profiteering ways of wall street by providing the means for a base economic structure. The profiteers can still profiteer, but communities can also choose to build strong local economies to offset the effects of the corporatist class.

I propose calling this group the “Co-operative Legislative Education Foundation” or CLEF. The Clef is a musical symbol used to instruct the music. It serves as a reference point for the musical. So, this organization, CLEF, will also serve as a reference point for our communities. I like the idea of using the Middle C Clef as a symbol for this foundation:


This suggests that our goal will not be the extremes of our community, but the balanced middle. The proposals for this organization should be at least bi-partisan but include as many sponsors as possible. Our goal should not be to get a single party elected but to create good public policy that builds strong local economies.

Over the last ten years, the US worker cooperative movement has blossomed. We have moved from a rag tag group of alienated co-operatives with few regional and local support systems to a thriving movement. We have a well established federation, the USFWC, which will be hosting the 5th National Worker Co-operative Bi-annual Conference in Boston next June, we have two strong regional groups: The Western Worker Cooperative Conference and the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy. We have helped to create CICOPA North America. We have a busy peer adviser network in the Democracy at Work Network and an educational non-profit, the Democracy at Work Institute. We need a political wing–again, not to promote any political party–to develop and promote good public policy that will advance our co-operatives, build strong sustainable local economies, and re-power workers in taking control of their lives through democratic control and ownership of their work.

Creating CLEF will be one of my goals in the coming year. For those of you with the time and interest, I hope that you contact me–our movement is already creating a better world, by drafting and supporting public policy, we can do even more and create opportunities for millions of workers in this country.

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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1 Response to Towards a Cooperative Legislative Education Foundation

  1. A Waterhouse says:

    A good idea. There has been a very agressive complex of organisations, think tanks extra pushing the neo con lib agenda. A lot of it is tosh which should be exposed; we are all living with the negative consequences of the TINA agenda. But of course being critical is not enough so we who want something different, based on economic democracy, cooperation and mutuality need to take reposebility for viable solutions.

    Getting enabling legislation is an important step but before one can get there we need well worked ideas and proposals. Education has always been a vitalising aspect of coops; WP is making a great job of doing this. Building up an aware livly constituancy of support will help the advancment of cooperatives, of which worker coops are important.

    I hope something like the CLEF takes off; cheering you all from across the pond!


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