The Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives:Exploring the Potential of Co-op Led Development

Erbin Crowell
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St. Mary's University
[Excerpt] Toward the end of my time with Equal Exchange, I came into contact with members of the co-ops that make up the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops (VAWC). I was impressed by the tradition of collective management among these co-ops and the manner in which they had come together to begin developing a network of mutual support in their region. The number and diversity of the enterprises represented in the network was very different from my experience of worker co-ops as isolated enterprises. I was also encouraged by the dialogue that was taking place among members around the vision of a co-operative economy, the role of worker co-ops in their own development, and the concept of creating a role for support staff that would be integrated with and accountable to the co-ops that they served. It was in this context that I proposed to use the opportunity presented by the MMCCU Cooperative Management Audit, the final project in the completion of my degree, to explore the potential of these ideas. The goal of this audit, then, is to briefly describe the unique context of VAWC, to explore the common features of two major worker co-operative complexes, to present some options for how these lessons might be applied to VAWC’s evolution, and finally to propose a set of priorities for a one year pilot project.
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