June Gathering 2022/Worker Coop Federation

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Sion and Finn report back from the Workers Co-op Council on the progress that has been made regarding establishing a new workers co-op federation, workers.coop.

Intro pitch from Sion

Context, history

Article Sion wrote for STIR to action magazine - [draft shared](https://office.coops.tech/s/jRMHjdE64xEg632)


"the aim is to strengthen worker co-op culture by mobilising co-operators and allies as we’ve not done before, through industrial networks, knowledge sharing, social movement alliances and active internationalism."

Pre-dating Rochdale Pioneers

"The Fenwick Weavers’ Society in Ayrshire started in 1761 as a semi-secret association to defend wage levels and product quality. Later they spun out what today would be called a consumer co-op and a credit union. Their model was copied elsewhere in Scotland, and the Fenwick Society itself traded for more than 100 years."

When co-ops were popular last century...

"ICOM was founded in 1971 to consolidate these developments and push the movement forward; followed in 1973 by Industrial Common Ownership Finance (ICOF), which established a revolving worker co-op loan fund to mitigate the most common problem for new and established worker co-ops – their lack of access to money."

"...3,000 new worker co-ops were registered through ICOM between 1975 and 1990. "

"In the 1990s there was a wholesale reversal of co-op friendly policy, and a sharp attacks on working class organisation generally."

By 2000 only 400 co-ops remained, which is similar to now, around 160 of them are part of the movement.

ICOM folded 2000.

"In 2001, the most resilient formed a cohort that joined a new national co-op apex organisation, Co-operatives UK - itself created out of a merger between ICOM and the old consumer co-op federation, the Co-operative Union. "

Worker co-ops are on the edge of Co-ops UK.

Various co-ops have sub-organisations and are federal members of Co-ops UK who are the apex body of the movement. Co-ops UK used to offer a staffed member for worker co-ops

Worker co-op council

Co-ops UK recognise Worker co-op council to represent the co-ops on the board without having a formal federation. Worker co-ops (members of Co-ops UK) would elect to the council - 7 members.

Worker co-op council stopped being interested in just being a sounding board for the Co-ops UK. New ideas would pop up and gatherings would be organised, e.g. Worker Co-op Weekend.

Co-ops UK never really understood worker co-ops, they have not got too much experience of working for co-ops, even at Co-ops UK they are staff.

Co-ops UK has turned into a broad church and embracing business for good, which does not represent workers anymore, who they don't seem to know how to talk to.

Last year Worker Co-op Council engaged Co-ops UK in a conversation about Employee owned businesses (which is privately owned, not by workers) and other shortcomings of Co-ops UK.

The idea is now to create a federation and abolish The Worker co-op council.


Co-ops UK agreed to support this new organisation and offer a dual membership for co-ops who join the federation.

CoTech appears organised in a way that food co-ops also aspire to. The federal organisation could support.

What do we want to create?


The previous board of Co-ops UK agreed heads of terms but new head of the organisation wanted to hold a session at the Congress, which is on Friday.

Could Co-ops UK turn further towards the consumer co-ops and new generation of these called Community Businesses (Community Benefit Societies etc)

Co-ops UK's advice can be incorrect so they are not necessarily the most clued up about worker co-ops. They still can offer services that are not worker co-op specific, they tend to forget to often even mention worker co-ops. They say working at a worker co-op is nice, but they do not support workers.

The energy appears to return now, with the worker co-op weekend, Solid Fund...

Are there any transferrable elements? John Atherton has an understanding of the co-op and has been supporting worker co-ops since 2008. Over the past years he has been dragged away from worker co-ops, he just resigned from Co-ops UK and he will be on a 3-month contract.

Where do Co-ops UK take money from? 50% is from membership fees. They do partnerships, campaigns etc.

Heads of Terms specify that dual membership is optional on worker federation membership. In the context of Co-ops UK we might lose the seats on the board. CEO of Co-ops UK does not recognise that the board approved it.

Federation could potentially be an entity that then helps CoTech to hire the network coordinator?

Next steps

The only way to move ahead would be stepping up in coordinating and running the federation. CoTech could be an industrial circle within the federation.

Worker co-op federation needs forming circles etc.

Converting employee-owned businesses (back) into the co-ops.

At this gathering could we agree to go into negotiations with the federation. Perhaps then it could help clarified what the Value Proposition is.

Could we hold a workshop tomorrow to map the structures of CoTech.

Tomorrow 11am!