Ever since I first read about it, the notion of the union co-op model has fascinated me.
Introduced in 2012 and created through a partnership between United Steelworkers and Mondragon International, this model sought to create a new avenue of growth of the American labor movement in the wake of the increasingly emerging breakdown of the model of exclusive representation. Built on the Ten Basic Principles advanced by Mondragon but adapted for the unique structures of American labor law, the union co-op model has seen some uptake across the United States, but certainly not as much as USW or Mondragon might have hoped.
In addition to this, there’s another major political effort focused around cooperative enterprise whose model serves as inspiration for this: Cooperation Jackson.
Built on decades of organizing by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) in Jackson, MS, Cooperation Jackson saw a major breakthrough in 2013, when Chokwe Lumumba, a lawyer and organizer most famous for representing Geronimo Pratt of the Black Panther Party and Tupac Shakur, was elected as Mayor of Jackson on a platform of economic redevelopment focused around developing cooperative enterprises in the majority-Black city of Jackson. Fruit of the MXGM’s Jackson-Kush Plan originated by Kali Akuno, Cooperation Jackson had barely gotten off the boards when Mayor Lumumba died suddenly in 2014. Subsequently, a political foe of Mayor Lumumba’s, Tony Yarber, defeated Mayor Lumumba’s son Chokwe Antar Lumumba in a special election to fill the vacant mayorship. Yarber subsequently stopped most of the more radical programs that Mayor Lumumba had just started to implement.
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