A Co-op to Die For: People’s Memorial

Washington and the PNW have a rich diversity of Co-ops: preschool, housing, consumer, producer, worker, multi-stakeholder and death. Washington “toddler to grave” co-op economy used to be “cradle to grave” but then Group Health Co-op sold itself. Still, there is a co-op for almost all human activity in the PNW, even that of decomposing.

The Co-op Funeral Home of People’s Memorial is the only funeral home co-op in the United States (they are much more common in the UK). There should be more. Sadly the for-profit death model has become a tragedy on the national scene as NPR reported. People, at a moment of crisis, suddenly need to make financial decisions that can be quite costly and ridden with guilt.

The People’s Memorial Association was formed 80 years ago by a number of Seattle area churches that had grown tired witnessing members of their flock go broke due to the high cost of funerals. The PMA contracted with an area funeral home to get set rates for its members.When that funeral home sold to a national brand, they found a new funeral home to work with that was subsequently bought up the following year. In 2007, PMA created the Co-op Funeral Home.

The Co-op Funeral Home provides dignified and affordable funeral services to the Greater Seattle area and even offers support state wide through partnerships with funeral homes throughout the state. I joined in 2015 (membership is only $50). My membership card says, “At time of death call. . . “

There is a certain peace of mind knowing that when I die, my remains will not be exploited one-last time for distant shareholders seeking to maximize a return on their investment.

PMA and the Co-op Funeral Home also advocate for better laws. Last year they were successful in bringing human composting and aquamation to the State. Washington is the first state in the nation to allow human composting. This organization is an incredible example of co-operation’s values and principles and we need more of them throughout the US. We don’t need shareholders literally picking at our corpses for profits.

Get Tickets to The After Party on December 14th.

Doors open at 5:00 pm to all After Party event ticket holders who will be greeted by a full cash bar and heavy appetizers as they explore interactive activities and art projects. Contemplate your relationship with death and learn about eco-friendly death care options, enter for a chance to win several exciting raffle prizes, and get your photo taken as you play with spooky props. Caitlin Doughty will treat us to a live performance of her popular YouTube show “Ask a Mortician”, tackling some of the audience’s most curious questions about death. Find yourself engaging in deep conversation you may not otherwise experience organically, ultimately building community.

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-op 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. He has served on the board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Board of Governors for the late, great Democracy at Work Network. He currently sits on the Co-op Circle for Sociocracy for All. He has taught on worker co-operatives and democratic management in the summer at The Evergreen State College and Presidio Graduate School.
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