Together: How Cooperatives Show Resilience to the Crisis
CECOP/CICOPA Europe (2012)
Together examines how the cooperative movement enabled tens of thousands of European workers to survive the 2008 downturn. As of 2012, there were 1.5 million co-op workers in Europe. The filmmakers interview workers from French, Polish, Italian and Spanish worker cooperatives. All agree that the traditional capitalist model – in which a financial group loots an enterprise for a few years and abandons it – is obsolete because it inevitably predisposes to financial crisis.
In France, workers converted 150 failed businesses to cooperatives between 2008 and 2012. The first co-op featured is a foundry workers converted with the help of a French organization that specializes in this type of conversion.
The Polish example is a bottling plant that survived Poland’s transformation to a “free market economy” in the 1990s. There were many so-called worker cooperatives in communist Poland, but they were controlled by the state, rather than workers themselves.
The Italian example features the “social cooperatives” enabled by Law 381 in 1991. These are worker-run public-private ventures that provide social services and work integration schemes for the disadvantaged. Italy has a total of 10,000 social cooperatives, and they increased, rather than decreased, staff following the 2008 downturn.
The documentary also showcases the world-famous Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region of Spain. Mondragon, which was first started in 1943, is actually a consortium of 100 worker-owned businesses. Ninety-four are located outside of Spain.
Mondragon workers believe they survived the 2008 downturn due to their heavy emphasis on research and worker upskilling. They’re especially proud of the Mondragon electric car project. After the global economic crash, 500 Mondragon workers moved to a new co-op when their original work area shut down.