Our History

1worker1vote Movement Origins, Structure, Principles, Practices and Ecosystem

August 2020

Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Communities: The Union Co-op Model (PDF) developed by the United Steelworkers (USW, Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC), and Mondragon International North America (MINA – now 1worker1vote), in March 2012,  frames constructs and guidelines for forming new union co-ops, based on the ten Mondragon co-operative principles.

  • Mondragon (mondragon-corporation.com) – showcasing seventy years of self-improving industrial cooperative principles and experiences,  Mondragon is now Spain’s tenth largest corporation and fourth largest employment creator and world’s largest industrial cooperative with its own university, bank and insurance mutual.
  • The United Steelworkers (usw.org) is North America’s largest manufacturing union, co-founder of the Apollo Alliance, the Blue-Green Alliance, and the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and partnered with Unite, the UK’s second largest union.
  • The Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC – oeockent.org) – a non-profit outreach center of Kent State University, the first of the U.S. state-based employee ownership centers and created by the legendary John Logue, focusing on saving jobs, creating wealth and growing economies through worker and employee ownership practices

To date, U.S Union Coops are purely private sector and represent business areas such as healthcare (includes homecare and nursing), food desert grocery stores, fishing, logging, energy efficiency, solar installations, child care, transportation, design printing, window manufacturing, agriculture, education, biking, software systems, marketing and communications, and soon medical cannabis.  Scale exists and industry focus is broad and varied.

U.S. Union Coops are located mostly along the Cincinnati-Dayton/Ohio corridor, in Western and Central Massachusetts, in Denver-Colorado, New York City, Madison-Wisconsin, Oakland/Berkeley/Los Angeles – California, in Olympia & Seattle – Washington, and the State of Maine but there are growth signs almost everywhere.  Participating, progressive Unions include the United Steelworkers, United Food & Commercial Workers, International Machinists, Service Employees International – SEIU, Transport Workers Union, United Electrical Radio & Machine Workers, Amalgamated Transit Union, United Farm Workers,  and the Communications Workers of America.

The 1worker1vote movement, initially envisioned throughout the 2012-2014 timeframe, is  a New York-registered 501c3 economic development non-profit catalyst formally launched in the Spring of 2015.  1worker1vote’s legacy mission and practices spring from three founding sources:

  • First, the October 2009 United Steelworkers and Mondragon International Collaboration Agreement intended as an antidote to the global socioeconomic ravages of the 2008 Great Recession.
  • Second, a thirty month nationwide incubation, reflection, feedback and consensus-building process resulting in the March 2012 public presentation of the union-coop template by the United Steelworkers, the Ohio Center for Employee Ownership, and Mondragon International’s North America delegate, co-presented by leaders of the U.S. cooperative movement such as Dr. Martin Lowery, EVP Emeritus of NRECA, in the atrium of the Steelworkers international headquarters in Pittsburgh, after two-and-one-half years of public reflection, feedback and consensus building.
  • Third, collaboration MOUs signed with the leadership at that time of five Mondragon cooperatives in the spring of 2014 (Laboral Kutxa – Mondragon’s cooperative bank, Mondragon University, Mondragon International, Saiolan – Mondragon’s cooperative incubator, and MIK – Mondragon’s cooperative knowledge center).

Given its dual Labor & Cooperative founding rationale & roots; 1worker1vote focuses on policies, practices, and projects to build shared purpose social enterprise ecosystems through hybrid shared ownership enterprise models starting with the union-coop template.  1worker1vote helps to launch for-profit, hybrid model enterprise ecosystems and projects that are worker owned and managed.  The movement concentrates on developing economic self-reliance, inclusive entrepreneurship and civic equity culture in frontline communities across America by localizing close to seventy years of Mondragon worker cooperative ecosystem principles & practices and then taking and localizing those lessons learned “across borders, markets and silos”.

The 1worker1vote movement prioritizes eliminating “trickle-down” dependencies in all sectors (private, public, philanthropic) by replacing vertical relationships with “flattened curve”, horizontal ones (“one worker/one vote equity, workplace democracy, agency and solidarity) to design and inhabit aspirational & inclusive civic culture.  Prized qualities include inclusivity, transparency, collaboration, professional excellence, and follow-up and follow-through diligence.  1worker1vote’s mantra: “Bubble-up to Gusher-up”.

1worker1vote believes and sets out to prove that ownership is the ineluctable human and democratic system condition.  The transforming way forward for all of us rising from paycheck dependency to enterprise equity is to reflect lessons learned from the Mondragon ecosystem where capital is labor’s instrument, not its master.

Currently, 1worker1vote is governed by ten co-founders, ten members of our national advisory board and an executive director who is also a co-founder.  1worker1vote is a member of the American Sustainable Business Council (www.asbcouncil.org) and collaborates on hybrid shared ownership models policies with ASBC through a joint “Ownership4All” campaign.   As institutional co-founders, Coop Cincy (www.coopcincy.org) operates as the prototyping “living lab” for the 1worker1vote movement while CUNY Law School’s Community Economic Development Clinic (CEDC) in NYC leads 1worker1vote’s intellectual property, legal and alliance structuring work.