Mondragón Cooperative Corporation
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Mondragon, officially the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation, is a federation of Worker co-ops, primarily based in the Basque region of Spain. Today, it is the largest worker cooperative in the world with nearly 100,000 worker-owners throughout hundreds of individual cooperatives. Founded in the town of Mondragón in 1956, the cooperative system's origins is directly linked to a small technical college founded by Father José María Arizmendiarrieta Madariaga, who later helped five of his students found a small workshop manufacturing paraffin heaters. This business later became a cooperative then known as ULGOR (currently FAGOR). This cooperative helped found a credit union, the Caja Laboral, which was a major reason for the launching and success of other cooperatives.
Currently, Mondragon is the seventh largest business in Spain with regards to turnover, and it is the leading business group in the Basque Country.
Mondragon's Impact in the United States
Now more than ever, the worker-owned enterprise is becoming a sustainable, familiar, and transformative experience within the United States. This movement partially owes its seeds to the Mondragon model it has taken such enormous inspiration from, but the growing roots are all due to the efforts and resilience of the worker-owners, co-op developers, and their allies that have made the movement flourish.
Austin Polytechnical Institute
In the neighborhood of Austin, one of Chicago’s poorest areas, the Austin Polytechnical Academy serves primarily African American youth and was modeled after Mondragon’s polytechnic college. Since the opening of its doors in 2007, this school has rapidly become one of the city’s most successful and innovative high schools. In September of 2009, representatives from the school’s community made a four day trip to Spain to directly witness the Mondragon experience.
At the center of the nation’s Rust Belt, Evergreen Cooperative Laundry opened in November of 2009. This is the first of three Cleveland businesses intended to launch under the Evergreen Cooperatives umbrella, whose mission is to reproduce Mondragon’s blueprints within this Midwest city.
In October of 2009, The United Steelworkers Union, the largest industrial trade union in North America, announced a historic plan to collaborate with Mondragon in order to open worker-owned factories in the United States.
After a visit to the Mondragon system, the mayor of Richmond, MA has decided to dedicate her city's resources to fostering worker-owned cooperatives as a means for economic revival and sustainability.