Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation

 La F�d�ration canadienne des coop�ratives de travail

April 2012
Vol 3, Issue  4                                                                          

Follow us on Twitter


Find us on Facebook

Executive Director's Report / Rapport de la Directrice g�n�rale

logo 150

(Le fran�ais suit) This month's Executive Director's report features two very unfortunate news items for the co-operative sector in Canada. The federal government's decision to cut funding for CDI, paired with some significant changes to RRSP programs such as CWCF's, will certainly be challenging. You can read the report here.


Ce mois-ci le rapport de la Directrice g�n�rale couvre deux nouvelles malheureuses pour le secteur coop�ratif au Canada. La d�cision du gouvernement f�d�ral d'�liminer l'IDC, ainsi que des changements importants aux programmes REER, seront certainement des d�fis. Vous pouvez  lire le rapport ici.
La Siembra on Prime Time Television / La Siembra � la t�l�vision
(Le fran�ais suit) Recently, the CBC's 4-part special, The Big Decision, featured a Canadian
worker cooperative and CWCF member, La Siembra. Many people know La Siembra for its trade name, "Camino", famous for its fair trade chocolate. In the episode, which aired in March, Dragonette Arlene Dickinson visited the Ottawa-based cooperative to help with their overstock of fruit juices. For more information, and to view the episode, visit La Siembra's website.

En mars la CBC � diffus� The Big Decision avec La Siembra, membre de la FCCT. Fameuse pour son chocolat de commerce �quitable, La Siembra est bien connu comme son nom de marque, "Camino". Dragonette Arlene Dickison a visit� la coop�rative d'Ottawa pour aider l'organisation � minimis� son surstock. Pour plus des informations, visiter la site web de La Siembra.
CCA - CCCM Congress / Le Congr�s ACC - CCCM
(Le fran�ais suit) The 2012 Canadian Co-operative Association's congress and annual general meeting is occurring, jointly with CCCM, in June in Montr�al. This year, in honour of the 2012 UN Year of the Co-operative, the theme of the congress will be "Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World". The aim of the congress and meeting will be to "raise awareness, build capacity of the co-operative community, and work on a vision and legacies that will live beyond 2012". For more information, check out the CCA's website.

Le Conseil canadien de la coop�ration et de la mutualit� va organiser le congr�s et AGA de 2012 au mois de juin � Montr�al, conjointement avec l'ACC. Tout comme l'Ann�e internationale des coop�ratives, le th�me sera "les coop�ratives, des entreprises pour un monde meilleur". Il y a plus d'information disponible au site web officiel du CCCM.


G�rer l'�quit�: un d�fi permanent / "Managing Fairness"
Alain Bridault
Par Alain Bridault. Dans une chronique pr�c�dente, nous avons insist� sur l'importance de bien g�rer l'acceptabilit� des d�cisions prises par le conseil d'administration ou la direction g�n�rale dans leurs champs de pouvoirs respectifs. Nous soulignions que les seules bonnes d�cisions ne sont que les d�cisions bien accept�es par les membres, c'est-�-dire bien comprises par tous, donc bien expliqu�es via les canaux de communication interne mis en place par la coop�rative.


Big Times For British Columbia Food Co-ops

Marty Frost _

By Jeff Nield (BC Business) - Collective independence is what makes co-ops unique. "The ownership of the co-op is everything," says Marty Frost, who has advised startups as well as established co-ops in his role as director of FWC Development Cooperative (DevCo). A store on Cortes Island tells a similar tale of reflecting a community's values. In 2004, local producers seeking a common central marketplace started the Cortes Natural Food Co-op (a CWCF member), in co-operation with local consumers looking for healthy, ethically-sourced food at low prices. 

The 2,000-square-foot store serves 700 member families on an island with a population around 1,000. Sales have been strong and stand at over $1 million a year, $100,000 of that is from products grown and produced on-island. The store was initially staffed by volunteers, who were offered food vouchers in exchange for their labour until the co-op became financially stable enough to where today there are 10 part-time, paid staff members. More

The Occupation Of Workplace Democracy: Challenges And Solutions For A Solidarity Economy

Media Co-op

By Dru Oja Jay (Media Co-op) - Part two of an interview with Cheyenna Weber of SolidarityNYC. "When asking why co-ops failed individuals routinely said having a strong process for confronting conflict, and allowing individuals to advocate for their own needs, was the most important component of success in the governance of a co-op. To have a stable relationship with someone you need the freedom to speak honestly with one another, even when it isn't pleasant. Cultivating cultures of openness through story sharing, deep check-ins, social elements like sharing meals or getting to know one another's families, celebrating each other's work and recognizing both weakness and strengths, etc. is a priority in any successful group's efforts. We must also find ways to hold each other accountable."  More

To Build A Better World We Need Better Tools - Imagine 2012 Conference


The world never needed co-operation more than it does now. The Imagine 2012: Conference on Co-operative Economics will provide co-operative leaders with ideas and tools to build a better world based on a better economy. Imagine 2012 will showcase 15 internationally renowned proponents of a 'new economy' who will explore the relationships of their specialties to create a cohesive body of "co-operative economics" which could be utilized internationally. The cost is $800 for the Imagine 2012 conference alone, $1,200 for the Summit or $1,500 for both. Imagine 2012 will be held in Quebec City from October 6th to the 8th, while the Quebec International 2012 Summit of Cooperatives will be held from the 8th-11th.

Sustainable Communities: The Union Co-op Model

US Steelworkers

On March 26, 2012 - "To survive the boom and bust, bubble-driven economic cycles fueled by Wall Street, we must look for new ways to create and sustain good jobs on Main Street," urged Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers International President. "This union co-op model, created through our partnership with Mondragon and with the assistance of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, provides a viable road map on how we might begin fielding these sustainable jobs." Building upon this union co-op model, as well as the OEOC's work with the Cleveland Foundation through the Evergreen Cooperatives platform (also designed and based on the Mondragon principles), exciting new projects in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are well underway, with specific announcements anticipated in the next several months. More

Ohio Employee Ownership Centre Helps With Select Machine Conversion


The owners of Select Machine were interested in selling their business, located in Brimfield, Ohio. They could find buyers, but these buyers were only interested in buying the assets and moving the company elsewhere, leaving Select Machine workers unemployed. The owners, who had founded the business, recognized that they had dedicated staff who had been there for a long time, who had helped make the company what it was. With this the owners contacted the Ohio Employee Ownership Centre (OEOC) to convert into a worker co-operative. Employees were trained how to run the company and how to interact with bankers and accountants. Customers were kept abreast of how things were progressing. All together the transition was less than six months and went very smoothly. See video

South By Southwest Festival Features IT Worker Co-operative Panel 


In the United States, Information Technology businesses are the most popular type of worker co-op. On March 12, 2012, at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, there was a moderated IT worker co-op panel with participants from Brooklyn, New Orleans, Oakland and Boston. Panelists discussed their unique models and experiences working in tech co-operatives. Panelists explained why a growing number of IT professionals prefer working in a co-op setting, the advantages and drawbacks of a democratic workplace, and the processes of starting and maintaining a worker co-operative. Click here for the audio recording.

Les Scops interpellent les candidats � la pr�sidentielle
Les soci�t�s coop�ratives et participatives (une organisation de la France) a articul� ses demandes aux candidats � l'�lection pr�sidentielle de 2013. Scop pose la question "Peut-on aujourd'hui mener une politique �conomique sans agir avec d�termination sur les leviers de l'initiative, de la prise de risque et du soutien aux salari�s entrepreneurs?". La r�ponse? Trouver plus d'information sur la site web de Scop.


A Conversation With Noam Chomsky - Economic Democracy


By Dada Maheshvarananda (ZNet) - "You can't have meaningful political democracy without functioning economic democracy. I think this is, at some level, understood by working people. It has to be brought to awareness and consciousness, but it's just below the surface. In fact, things are happening. Some of the most interesting are (the Evergreen) co-operatives in Ohio in the Cleveland area. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of, not huge, but significant enterprises, that are worker-owned and less frequently worker-managed. The biggest worker-owned conglomerate is Mondrag�n in the Basque Country (Spain). That's worker-owned but not worker-managed industries, banks, schools, communities, a very broad configuration. And there are various other elements of it here and there. A couple of quite good books have just come out about it, one by Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism, which is about the worker-owned enterprises that are sprouting around the country." More

US National Worker Cooperative Conference
The American counterpart to the CWCF, the USFWC, is holding its annual conference this June in Boston. The keynote speaker this year will be Chaka Fattah, a Pennsylvania Congressman and sponsor of the National Cooperative Development Act. The conference bills itself as a CELEBRATION of worker cooperatives, an INVITATION to the public, and a place of CONGREGATION for workers. More information is available on the conference website.


U.S. Evolutionary Biologist Says That Co-operation Triumphs Over Greed

By Bibi van der Zee (The Guardian) - Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson is using his home town to test his theories that humans are innately co-operative. Wilson argues that genetic self-interest is not humankind's default setting (as advocated by Richard Dawkins in the Selfish Gene). We are altruistic and co-operative by nature. Prosociality, as he terms it, is a behaviour that gives a group a genuine competitive advantage. "Selfishness beats altruism within groups, [but] altruistic groups beat selfish groups, and everything else is commentary," says Wilson. Wilson was recently in the UK at the invitation of the Co-operative Group, which is keen to make a case that co-operative behaviour is the norm, not the exception. More

My Worker-Owner Vote

Equal Exchange

By Hillary G. Johnson (The Co-operative Society) - I wanted to work at Equal Exchange after close to a decade in the consumer co-ops because I wanted to own my own work. Equal Exchange is the worker-owned co-operative that brought fair trade coffee to the U.S. in 1986. In mid-January, after just over a year of answering the phone, taking orders, managing the inventory, working in the warehouse, getting bills paid on time, and working events (sometimes in the banana suit), I got voted in. I'm in! Still doing all that other stuff, but now I can serve on co-op committees, vote on issues facing the co-op, run for the board, and earn patronage. I'm the kind of nerd that gets pretty excited to serve on a committee. I think co-operatives are ultimately the solution to most situations. In co-ops, we're in it together. More

From Conflict To Co-operation Booklets - New Resource

Co-operatives UK

From Conflict to Co-operation is a series of five cartoon booklets from Co-operatives UK that aims to help enterprises not only deal with conflict when it arises but also avoid unnecessary conflict. As Gillian Bober, President of the East of England Co-operative Society, states in the Foreword: "In order to achieve their goals and be sustainable, community enterprises need to know how to work as a team - communicating effectively, making good decisions, dealing with the inevitable conflicts and coping with growth and change. From Conflict to Co-operation - a series of handy illustrated guides - is invaluable. It includes useful hints and tips as well as signposting to further resources." It is vital for people to behave assertively. More
The UK's Co-operative Group Shows Unprecedented Leadership In Fairtrade

Co-operative GroupThe Co-operative Group is the UK's largest mutual business, owned by over six million consumers. It operates many types of businesses, has 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than �13 billion. It is the UK's fifth biggest food retailer and the leading convenience store operator. The Co-operative Group's slogan is "We're taking ethics to the next level. Join the Revolution." In 2002, 100% of their store-brand block chocolate was converted to Fairtrade. In 2008, they became the first retailer to switch all of their store-brand hot drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) to Fairtrade. They are now committing to the most radical Fairtrade conversion programme ever and by 2013 want to see some 90% of the primary commodities they source from the developing world certified to Fairtrade standards. The Co-operative Group is a great example for retail co-ops to follow.

The Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation (CWCF) is a national, bilingual grassroots membership organization of and for worker co-operatives, related types of co-operatives (multi-stakeholder co-ops and worker-shareholder co-ops), and organizations that support the growth and development of worker cooperatives.  CWCF's e-newsletter is available free of charge to anyone with an e-mail address and an interest in worker co-operative developments in Canada. 
Please send any comments and suggestions to: 


James Mitchell 

Editor of CWCF Newsletter