The film visits several worker owned enterprises in North America, and in the Basque region of Spain, to show the diversity of participants, products and ways of doing business in employee owned firms. Each offers inspiration as well as practical ideas about making these enterprises successful. Stories in the film include:
Mondragón Cooperative Corporation [MCC]: Begun in the 1950s, the Mondragón co-ops have transformed a depressed area of Spain into one of the most productive in Europe with a high standard of living and an egalitarian way of life. These co-ops produce computer chips, high tech industrial machinery, household appliances, and many other products. They are owned and managed by their workers. Seeing the achievements of the MCC helps to overcome the idea—widespread in North America—that worker run cooperatives can only exist on the economic fringe.
The Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio: This is an ambitious urban redevelopment model, directly inspired by Mondragón, where local institutions and public officials are supporting green cooperatives of previously marginalized, predominantly African American workers, who provide commercial laundry services, install solar energy systems, and grow vegetables in vast urban greenhouses.
Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, San Francisco, California: Started 30 years ago, there are now six of these independent worker owned and managed cooperative bakeries that work together to provide the financial and legal services they need, and to incubate new coop bakeries.
Cooperatives of immigrant workers: Often the most marginalized in our current economic system, immigrant workers are starting cooperatives to create secure, environmentally friendly jobs. The non-profit WAGES helps low income women, largely Latina immigrants, organize green house-cleaning cooperatives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing in Madison, WI: This proudly worker owned and managed company designs and builds custom high tech manufacturing equipment for the medical, automotive and energy industries. They have a strong commitment to improving solar technologies. They’ve joined with other longstanding coops in Madison, including Union Cab and Community PHarmacy, plus many others, to form a network of worker cooperatives that can support each other and encourage new cooperative businesses to form.
Equal Exchange, Boston MA: Founded in 1986, Equal Exchange is one of the largest roasters of fair trade coffee in the world. Democratically managed by those who work there, Equal Exchange distributes coffee, tea, chocolate bars, cocoa, and snacks produced by cooperatives in the U.S. and other countries. The more than 100 worker owners seek to demonstrate through their successful business, how worker cooperatives and fair trade contribute to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.