Sion Whellens helped us set up WAO six years ago, and he’s quoted in this piece about a new worker co-op federation.
There’s been a feeling for a while that Coops UK only really represents large co-operatives such as food co-ops. So this new organisation, of which we will be a member, should be much better at giving worker-owned co-ops a voice.
The vision of the organisation (the name is still under discussion) is to bring together an alliance of people and organisations “with an explicit focus on worker issues, worker-led organising, social solidarity, and economic justice”.
The new federation is starting out small – there are around 400 worker co-ops in the UK – but is receiving support and guidance from other federations worldwide, including the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives. “USFWC is a relatively new organisation that has managed to pull together something that works really effectively with little core resource in terms of membership subscriptions. They don’t have a vast amount of rich work co-ops to fund it, so they have to pull resources together in different ways. We can learn from that,” says Mr Whellens.
Co-operatives UK has been a home for worker co-ops for 20 years, but Mr Whellens believes that over the last decade, there has been “a growing realisation that it can’t really speak about worker co-operation authentically, or develop the worker co-op-specific resources we really need”.
“There has been a progressive loss of a distinctive voice and service for worker co-ops and we reached a point where we realised we need an independent voice and an independent network that can be more agile, less bureaucratic, more focused on the primary audience for worker co-operation – which is workers.”