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When I was listening to YES! Magazine's conference call on the Growth of the Cooperative Movement last week, Ted Howard of the Democracy Collaborative and Evergreen Cooperatives mentioned a documentary called SHIFT CHANGE. He especially saw it as a great "conversation starter" for talking with others about the Cooperative Movement.

I was so intrigued that it's the first thing I've looked into now that the bulk of the diary series that I wrote about that conference call is done.

"At a time when many are disillusioned with big banks and big business, and growing inequity in our country, employee ownership offers a real solution for workers and communities. SHIFT CHANGE is a new documentary (to have its world premiere on October 18, 2012, in Oakland, CA) that highlights worker-owned enterprises in North America and in Mondragon, Spain.  The film couldn’t be more timely, as 2012 has been declared by the U.N. as the 'International Year of the Cooperative'."

Take a look at the preview and please share your comments!" - SHIFT CHANGE website

SHIFT CHANGE debuted last October 18th (world premiere photo gallery).

Directed by Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin
Produced by Melissa Young
Associate Producer: Natasha Dworkin, Tony Harrah
Photography, Editing: Mark Dworkin
A Moving Images Production


It begins with workers telling you why working in a cooperative is better. Then it leaps to the Mondragon Cooperative, which Ted Howard called the "grandaddy" of worker cooperatives. As the documentary trailer says, Mondragon is a Federation of 120 worker cooperatives, which collectively have 100,000 employees and produce $25 billion in sales.

As one of the Mondragon workers says, "We don't have a boss like other companies. We're all bosses and we have to move the business forward."

One central uniqueness of cooperatives, also underscored in the film, is that creating good paying jobs is at least as important as profitability. In fact, good job creation in businesses that are community-based and have the community's full range of interests at heart is the entire point of profitability in a cooperative.

The businesses featured are described here. They include:

Mondragón Cooperative Corporation [MCC]
The The Evergreen Cooperatives - Cleveland, OH
Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives - San Francisco, CA
Cooperatives of immigrant workers [WAGES - Women's Action to Gain Economic Security]
Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing -  Madison, WI
Equal Exchange - Boston MA.

Some of the Mondragon cooperatives mentioned include a university, R&D company, and a bank, demonstrating that cooperatives can compete in mature, capital-intensive industries.

One of the comments I found particularly compelling:

"I'm in the second generation of a coop family. My sisters and I are members of Fagor. My parents' generation built the cooperatives. They've left us this inheritance. And we have to keep working to leave it to our children."
With all of the crises that have been allowed to escalate over the past 40 years, crises so big they will inevitably impact generations for the next few decades, at a minimum, it is encouraging to see a tangible area of action that could provide substantive hope, not just on the economic front, but in all areas, since coops, unlike investor-driven businesses, base their decisions on all factors affecting the community. A growing marketplace of tangible worker-owned businesses embracing the interests of the community they live and operate in, and the substantive hope that goes with that, is a far better legacy to hand down than what we've got now.

"SHIFT CHANGE brings you behind the scenes at some of the most exciting cooperative successes in Europe and the United States. This is a movement that’s creating jobs, strengthening communities, and showing that another economy is possible. It’s a movement that’s taking off — and SHIFT CHANGE is the way to understand what’s happening." - Sarah Van Gelder, YES! Magazine

"One of the barriers to fostering cooperative values and businesses in North America is the lack of awareness of the benefits that well organized cooperatives with good business practices can offer to workers and communities. Educating the public to the cooperative approach to business is an important contribution which SHIFT CHANGE can make.”" - Ted Howard, Democracy Collaborative, Evergreen Cooperatives

"This is a very important film on a very important topic that is almost completely neglected by business schools. As our current economic structures veer ever closer to collapse, the cooperative alternative has become more and more attractive. Seeing the sophistication of these businesses and listening to these co-op member/owners talk about their work is totally inspiring. Another world IS possible – and it looks like this!"
- Jill Bamburg, Bainbridge Graduate Institute

"The North American worker cooperatives and the Mondragón cooperatives in SHIFT CHANGE tell a compelling story of real possibilities at a time when many think there are no solutions to this current difficult economic situation." - Paul Hazen, board member, Accel-KKR and KKR Financial Holding Corporation

"The purpose of SHIFT CHANGE is to encourage the development of work cooperatives in North America as one solution to our severe economic problems as well as a means for a regional economy to compete successfully in the global economy. We at the CMRC will use the documentary in many ways." - Dan Swinney, Executive Director Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council and Center for Labor and Community Research

"The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives strongly supports SHIFT CHANGE. This film on worker cooperatives is a thorough, well-researched and inspiring work." - Melissa Hoover, Executive Director, United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives


Thursday, May 9, 7:00pm,  Bainbridge Island, WA
Monday, May 13, 7:30pm,  Atlanta, GA
Thursday, May 16, 5:00pm, Chicago, IL
Saturday, May 25, 3:30pm, Seattle, WA (Folklife Festival)
Monday, June 10, 7:30pm,  New York, NY


You may rent ($95) or purchase ($295) a DVD from Bullfrog Films to host screenings. See order info and the licensing agreement for details.


SHIFT CHANGE featured on Moyers & Company

The YES! Magazine Conference Call on Cooperatives Diary Series:

Call Transcript, Pt 1
(Sarah van Gelder, Executive Editor, YES! Magazine)
(Laura Flanders, GRITtv and the Laura Flanders Show)

Call Transcript, Pt 2 (Omar Freilla, The Green Worker Cooperatives)

Call Transcript, Pt 3 (Eric Bowman, The Northwest Cooperative Development Center)

Call Transcript, Pt 4 (Ted Howard, Democracy Collaborative, Evergreen Cooperatives)

Call Transcript, Pt 5 (Mike Beall, The National Cooperative Business Association)

Call Transcript, Q&A

YES! Magazine spring 2013 Issue: How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy


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