In this excerpt from our interview with Seward Co-op General Manager Sean Doyle for Radical Roots, Sean talks about his inspirational encounter with the Mondragon Corporation in Spain. Mondragon is a federation of hundreds of worker-owned cooperatives and is Spain’s 10th-largest business group and the largest in the Basque region. Started by a priest and his students in the Fascist Spain of the 1950s, Mondragon has slowly built up community wealth and cushioned their local economy during recessions.
What would it mean to have a Cooperative Commonwealth in Minnesota? For one, it would mean that significant capital would be controlled by cooperative members, which could then be used to expand cooperatives and start new ones to grow jobs. This is already happening with expansion of Seward and Mississippi Market into underserved areas, and through the help that Seward, the Wedge and Eastside Co-ops have provided to the new Wirth Food Co-op starting on the North Side of Minneapolis.
The idea of a Cooperative Commonwealth has firm roots in Minnesota. It was the guiding idea of the Farmer-Labor Party and Governor Floyd B. Olson (he of the Olson Memorial Highway) in the 1930s. A history of the concept can be found here.