Here are some readings to become familiar with the waves of cooperative organizing that have been a part of the United States' history. Many cooperative guides will use the Rochdale Pioneers and Mondragon as historical touchstones, but there is quite a storied, innovative and contemporary history within the United States that is worth getting to know.
- American Producer Cooperatives and Employee-owned firms: A Historical Perspective by Derek Jones. 1984
- For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation by John Curl. 2009
1800s worker cooperatives
The Practical Utopians: American workers and the cooperative movement in the Gilded Age by Steve Leikin. 2005
- History of Coöperation in the United States (1888)
- 1866: The Cooperative Foundry in Troy, New York
Cooperatives of the 1930s
The Plywood Cooperatives of the Pacific Northwest
Twenty four worker-owned plywood manufactories prospered in Washington and Oregon between the 1930s and 1970s.
- Worker-owned Plywood Companies of the Pacific Northwest by Ben Craig and John Pencavel. 1993
- Plywood Co-operatives of the Pacific Northwest: Endangered Species by Christopher Gunn. 1993
- Spillovers From Cooperative and Democratic Workplaces: Have the Benefits Been Oversold? By Edward Greenberg. 2008
- Worker participation: lessons from the worker co-ops of the Pacific Northwest by John Pencavel. 2001
The independent garbage collectors of San Francisco organized into a worker cooperative in the 1920s that held the municipal monopoly to serve most neighborhoods in the city. Their organization demutualized in the 1970s.
- Collecting garbage: dirty work, clean jobs, proud people by Stewart E. Perry, Raymond Russell. 1998
The Federation for Economic Democracy
The Federation for Economic Democracy (or FEDO) was a network of local technical assistance organizations advocating worker cooperatives and self-management from 1975 to 1977 in the eastern United States. Local nodes of the Federation became the Boston-area Industrial Cooperative Association and the Philadelphia-based PACE.
- The Federation for Economic Democracy
- Building Support Systems for Worker Cooperatives by George Benello. 1982
- ICA Model Bylaws for A Worker Cooperative. 1983
- A Targeted Approach to Worker Co-op Development: Lessons from Mondragon and Northern Italy, by Sherman Kreiner. 1989
Youngstown and the Campbell Iron Works
The shutdown of the Campbell Works in 1978 galvanized a lot of the cooperative organizing efforts of the Northeast. Though the project did not succeed, both the Ohio Employee Ownership Center and eht University of Maryland's Democracy Collaborative were founded by people involved in the rescue attempt.
- Steelyard Blues by Paula Cizmar. 1978
- Worker Ownership as a Means of Reducing Regional Unemployment and its Application to Steel Plant Shutdowns By Peter Berg. 1983
Rescuing Plant Shutdowns
Employee Ownership Case Studies, by Deborah Olson
When Workers Take Over the Plant, by Carey English
A Noble Experiment Goes Bankrupt, by T. Lueck
The O&O Supermarkets
The O&O Supermarkets were a series of worker cooperatives in the Philadelphia area in the 1980s. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1357, in partnership with Philadelphia Area Cooperative Enterprise (PACE), organized the first two stores in 1982 as part of a negotiation to keep the stores from being shut down by A&P.
- The O&O Supermarkets, an overview
- Worker Ownership as the Basis for an Integrated, Proactive Development Model by Sherman L. Kreiner. 1987
The Influence of Mondragon
The success of the Mondragon Cooperatives has been an inspiration for American Cooperative organizers ever since word arrived. Previous to Mondragon the best large scale implementation of the cooperative idea available was the socialist self-management of Yugoslavia.
- The Mondragon System of Worker Production Cooperatives, Ana Gutierrez Johnson and William Foote Whyte. 1977
- From Mondragón to Ohio: Building Employee Ownership by John Logue. 2001
- In Cleveland, Worker Co-Ops Look to a Spanish Model by Judith Schwartz. 2009
Many small worker cooperatives formed as part of the counterculture in urban areas in the 1970s.
- The Bay Area Directory of Collectives. 1980
- The Shape of the Small Worker Cooperative Movement, Robert Jackall and Joyce Crain. 1984
- Cooperatives in the late twentieth century: the democratic impulse and the challenge of oligarchy. Joyce Rothschild. 1986
The Hoedads were a network of worker cooperative tree planters that reforested the Pacific Northwest after logging. At peak they had 13 crews and over 300 workers.
- Tree Planters: The mighty Hoedads, back for a 30-year reunion, recall their grand experiment by Lois Wadsworth
- Hoedads Celebrate Reforestation History By Roscoe Caron
- Birth of a cooperative: Hoedads, Inc., a worker owned forest labor co-op by Hal Hartzell
Histories of Contemporary Worker Cooperatives
Sometimes people remark that worker cooperatives were a phenomenon of the 1970s, but there are plenty of examples of startups, some of them quite innovative, during the 1980s and 1990s.
- History of Union Cab Cooperative: The First Twenty Years (founded in 1977)
- The Workers' Owned Sewing Company (founded in 1979)
- Isthmus Engineering (founded in 1980)
- Alvarado Street Bakery (founded in 1981)
- A Brief History of Cooperative Home Care Associates (founded in 1985)
Equal Exchange: a Vision of Fairness to Farmerse (founded in 1986)
South Mountain Company (mutualized in 1987)
WAGES and the Eco-Friendly Cleaning Co-op Network (founded in 1994)
- The Replication of Arizmendi Bakery (founded in 1994)
Demutualization, or restructuring as non-democratic corporation usually to sell to an outside buyer, can be a problem if a cooperative is struggling OR if it is too successful. Demutualizations of two of the larger West Coast worker cooperatives created stir a few years back.
- Good Vibrations Restructures as California Corporation. 2006
The Rise and Fall of Burley Design Cooperative, by Joel Schoening
Conferences and Federations
During the late 1990s and 2000 a serious organizing effort was made toward creating federations of the somewhat isolated worker cooperatives in the country.
- Network of Bay Area Worker Collectives (NoBAWC) History
- Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives (VAWC) to Publish a Movement Book by Michael Johnson. 2009
- Western Worker Cooperative Conference
- Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy
- Regional Histories from the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives
- The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives Has Issued a Call for Membership
- The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives at Two