We have to interrupt our reports on worker owned companies in the U.S., because we are now visiting the Mondragon coops in the Basque region of northern Spain. Our days are long and intense as we film in numerous factories, universities, research centers, the coop bank and social service agency. We’ve been given complete access to coop managers, regular workers and others in the region to report on what these remarkable cooperatives have achieved and the complex ways they work together to benefit their worker owners and the economy of the entire region.
People here are feeling the effects of the economic crisis, of course, but unemployment in the Basque country is half what it is in the rest of Spain. The cooperatives take a variety of measures to prevent layoffs of members. They can vote to reduce their own hours or pay, or workers may be transferred temporarily to other cooperatives that are not as affected by the downturn. These worker owned coops employ 85,000 people and had revenues of about 25 billion dollars in 2010.
We look forward to sharing more stories, both from here and from North America, in the coming weeks, as we wrap up our Mondragon filming and begin editing the documentary, Shift Change. Stay tuned.