We know that recessions disproportionately impact historically underserved communities. In worker-run businesses however, the impact of economic downturns are distributed more equally. Mondragon Corporation in the Basque region of Spain is a leading example of this and the democratic economy in action.
EVOLUTION INSTITUTE PROJECTS
Under this project EI will apply the knowledge and experience acquired by Mondragon to the underserved region of East Pasco, Florida, comprised overwhelmingly of low-income people of color, migrants, and farmworkers. This will be done through action-oriented research committed to systemically reducing inequality and improving quality of life.
In 1956, a Roman Catholic priest named Father Arizmendi started a co-op together with six workers in the town of Mondragon. Today, Mondragon Corporation is the largest and most successful worker co-op in the world, with more than 81,000 people grouped together in worker owned cooperatives.
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, workers at Mondragon voted to take pay cuts rather than lay people off. While the 2008 recession severely hit Spain, workers at Mondragon were reassigned to other companies within the collective instead of losing their jobs. There are solidarity tools such as a maximum acceptable pay difference that ensures the highest paid worker cannot get more than 8-9 times what the lowest paid worker gets. (compared to chief execs being paid 320 times more than the average worker in the US)
The workers truly own, and more importantly run, everything.
Mondragon is teaching the world how to move the ideas of worker ownership and cooperation into high gear and large scale. A key lesson from Mondragon is the importance of developing an economically integrated network, showing how an ecosystem of cooperatives and support organizations create the infrastructure that leads to sustained growth.
The lessons of Mondragon on democratic economy can be summarized in three points:
- Broadly shared ownership
- Business as a space for social transformation
Like Mondragon, the Evolution Institute seeks to promote equitable and participatory community and regional development through broadly shared ownership, progressive and inclusive education, and inter-cooperation among education and training institutions, research and development organizations, local government bodies, and community coalitions.