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Mondragon cooperatives inspired by YCW See Judge Act method

The late Fr Josemaria Arizmendiarrietta

Mondragon cooperative founder Fr Josemaria Arizmendiarrietta was
inspired in his work by the YCW and the See Judge Act method, writes Dr
Race Mathews in an article in Eureka Street.

“Bruising industrial confrontations within Qantas and in Victorian
hospitals during the latter half of last year pose pertinent questions
as to whether alternative forms of ownership and control of workplaces
might in some instances have more to offer than conventional wisdom may
suppose.

“A case in point is the great complex of worker-owned manufacturing,
retail, financial, agricultural, civil engineering and support
cooperatives and associated entities headquartered at Mondragon in the
Basque region of Spain.

“With Spanish unemployment levels following the global financial
crisis standing at some 22 per cent, the Mondragon cooperatives have
demonstrated impressive resilience, absorbing their share of economic
hits and emerging largely unscathed.

“For example, Mondragon’s Eroski worker/consumer retail cooperative —
hitherto Spain’s largest and fastest growing chain of supermarkets,
hypermarkets and shopping malls — has over the last two years
experienced for the first time since its inception in 1959 losses
consequent on reduced consumer demand, and only in the current financial
year anticipates a return to modest profitability.

“Fagor, Spain’s largest manufacturer of white goods, has successfully
managed down production by 30 to 40 per cent in the face of a
precipitous contraction of the consumer durables market.

“The cooperative group’s Caja Laboral credit union — effectively
Spain’s ninth largest bank — is recovering from a 75 per cent reduction
in its profitability, from 200 million to 50 million euros.

“And following a sharp reduction in the use by the cooperatives of
temporary workers, overall employment has stabilised at around 83,800.

The cooperatives’ triumph is attributable overwhelmingly to key
attributes that set them aside from comparable conventional enterprises.

“Not to be overlooked are the conceptual framework that underlies the
cooperatives, as well as the enduring solidarity and subsidiarity
values that enliven them. These are the legacy to the cooperatives of
their founder, the Basque priest Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta.

“Internalised and in part secularised as the values and framework
have so largely become, they stem directly from the unswerving adherence
by Arizmendiarrieta to formation in the ‘see, judge, act’ or ‘inquiry’
study circle mould, as developed within the Young Christian Workers
unionist movement.

“As recalled by one of the five lay co-founders of the cooperative
group, ‘Father Arizmendi organised specialist courses on sociology to
which he invited economics professors … His ecclesiastical training led
him towards being a practical apostle. He not only tried to give
guidelines on what should be the model for the ideal enterprise, but he
put that social enterprise to which he aspired into practice.’”

Read the full article here:

Race Mathews,Catholic social solutions to workplace fairness, Eureka Street, 31/01/201

Race Matthews January 31, 2012