Machinist Cooperative Development Project in Illinois
This project is to establish a worker cooperative of union machinists in Illinois. The project is a joint undertaking of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District Lodge 8 and the Institute for Work and the Economy.
IAM District Lodge 8 is headquartered in Burr Ridge, Illinois, and represents 5,400 members under 101 collective bargaining contracts throughout the state of Illinois. Of those 101 contracts, approximately 30 employers employ people in the skilled trade of machinist. The bulk of the 30 employers are small to medium size employing from 2 to 400 machinists. These 30 workplaces would be the initial pool of employers for participation in this project. Approximately 60 of the employers covered by IAM contracts frequently incorporate parts from suppliers who machine parts for their operations. Two management representatives from among the 30 workplaces have agreed to participate on the Labor-Management Committee (LMC) of this project.
Throughout its history, organized labor has used the power of collective action to protect the rights of workers and to achieve their economic security. This project draws on the history of collective action and adds a new dimension, the worker cooperative, that is aimed at rationalizing a regional labor market in order to protect workers, bring both stability and predictability to careers as machinists, and provide employers with assured access to a highly qualified workforce at a competitive cost. Additionally, since there is no guarantee that apprenticeship training is being accomplished in sufficient numbers to maintain skill levels, it becomes incumbent on manufacturing unions to take more control of skills training.
A worker cooperative is a business that operates democratically. The people who work in the company own and control the business on the basis of “one person - one vote.” Cooperatives exists in a variety of industries and forms. Big Timberworks, for example, is a build/design cooperative that focuses on home building, timber framing, furniture and design. Weaver Street Market is a natural foods retailer in North Carolina. Cooperative Home Care Associates employs more than 2,000 people and is a leading innovator in home health care. Chroma Technology Corp., while not a cooperatives, is 100 percent employee owned and democratically run. It is a leading manufacturer of optical filters and related products and has offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
The development of the machinist cooperative will be based on the Mondragon model developed in Spain and advanced across Europe and the U.S. The core principles are:
Open Admission - no discrimination in hiring/membership
Democratic Organization - one workers, one vote
Sovereignty of Labor - workers run the cooperative
Instrumental and Subordinate Nature of Capital - proving and creating jobs is primary to return on capital
Participation in Management - development of systems for participation, transparency and consultation
Wage Solidarity - highest paid workers no more than 5-7 times lowest paid worker
Inter-Cooperation - working with other co-ops is valued and essential
Social Transformation - support and invest in social change
Universality - solidarity with other workers
Education - promote establishment of these principles.
While final organizational details will be the subject of the further business planning, we are confident of a few basics. First, the cooperative will be owned by IAMAW machinists. Second, union machinists will also comprise the production and training staff of the cooperative. Third, we anticipate that the members and employees of the cooperative will participate in IAMAW pension and health care programs. Finally, the organizational charter will reflect the principles outlined above.
Start-up funding has been requested and a decision is pending.
Institute for Work & the Economy
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