Wellspring Cooperative

Wellspring Labor / Co-op Committee (WLCC)

Mission Statement

The Wellspring Labor/Co-op Committee focuses on engagement  with unions and the broader labor movement in support of building cooperatives as well as broader systemic change for a more just, democratic, and sustainable future by: 

  • Educating unions about worker co-ops
  • Raising public awareness about unions and worker co-ops working together
  • Engaging unions in building cooperatives as part of systemic economic and social change 
  • Identifying opportunities to work with unions to develop co-ops, especially through conversions
  • Pushing for policy and legislation through political advocacy
  • Advising/supporting/promoting union affiliation within Wellspring Cooperative and our co-ops.

Events to date

  • Wellspring Cooperative Annual Meeting, Springfield, MA 12/6/18
  • MA Worker Co-op / Solidarity Economy Gathering, Worcester, MA 3/16-17/19
  • Prospects for a Cooperative Economy, Odyssey Bookshop, S. Hadley, MA 4/11/19
  • Labor / Worker Co-op Engagement, Amherst, MA  4/25/19
  • Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council, Springfield, MA 4/26/19
  • Labor Day 2020: Webinar 9/3/20
  • Labor Day 2021: Mailing to Wellspring labor network with updates on local, regional, and national labor/co-op activities
  • Labor Day 2022: Three Complementary Paths to Worker Power, a virtual panel and discussion
  • Building Worker Power Conference at UMass Amherst, a UMass Labor Center & Wellspring Co-op collaborative event, 3/24-26/23


The Wellspring Labor Co-ops Committee was founded in September 2018 by the Wellspring Co-op Corporation Board.

Committee Members

  • Jon Weissman, MA Campaign for Single Payer Health Care, retired National Assoc of Letter Carriers, Branch 46
  • Mary Hoyer, Union Co-ops Council of US Federation of Worker Co-ops
  • Jeff Jones, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459, WMALF (WMass Area Labor Federation)
  • Boone Shear, University of MA Department of Anthropology
  • Patrick Burke, Hampshire Franklin Central Labor Council, UAW Local 2322, WMALF
  • Rose Bookbinder, Mass Nurses Association, WMALF
  • Alix Gerber, Smith College
  • Ethan Tupelo, Hampshire College,
  • Daniel McLeod
  • Nellie Marshall-Torres, Wellspring Co-op Communication Coordinator & Program Assistant
  • Emily Kawano, Wellspring Co-op Corporation Co-Director

Please consider joining the Wellspring Labor Co-op Committee. We’ve been meeting monthly for about an hour on the 4th Monday of each month at 10:00 a.m. EST, occasionally face-to-face but more often by conference call. 

Contact Emily Kawano at emilykawano@gmail.com or any of the Committee members above.


What is a Union Cooperative?

Unions build worker power by organizing workers, taking on management in contract negotiations, and by fighting on the shop floor. But some locals and internationals are reviving an old tactic and allying with worker cooperatives, companies that are wholly owned by and run by their workers. Unions are doing this to save jobs, build worker power, nurture community alliances, and secure new members.

In a worker cooperative, the workers are the owners. They set their own wages and working conditions, but also make all the business decisions. In larger cooperatives, workers often govern the business through works councils and an elected board that appoints the managers. Unionized coops have collective bargaining agreements, but the relationship between the union and the “employer” (their members) is different.

Why use this model?

Separately, unions and cooperatives face enormous challenges. For unions, the ability to secure good contracts has diminished as membership continues to shrink and employers’ power continues to grow. For worker-owned cooperatives, challenges include access to broader support networks as well as access to the investments and loans needed to grow their businesses or to start up new cooperatives, especially in capital-intensive sectors such as manufacturing. Together, unions and cooperatives have the potential to create sustainable jobs that support sustainable communities, the potential to organize workers and workplaces in whole new ways, and even the potential to fundamentally transform our economy and our society for the better. (Rob Witherell, International Journal of Labor Research, 2013, v.5, n.2)

Where is this happening?

In the United States today, a few locals, central labor councils, and international unions are already seeing themselves as part of the same movement with worker cooperatives. In 2009, United Steelworkers announced an alliance with the largest worker co-op network in the world, Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain. Service Employees International Union 1199 represents workers at Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, NY, which is the largest worker co-op in the country with 860 worker-owners.  Craft unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are finding their apprenticeship programs and benefits now provide vital support to workers in unionized worker co-op like Pacific Electric in Los Angeles.  Sheet metal workers in Wisconsin, movers in NY, and practical nurses in California are exploring worker co-ops as a way to bid for jobs employ their union’s members on jobs that contractors otherwise ignore.  In Western Massachusetts, Collective Copies, a worker-owned print/copy/publishing enterprise, was initiated by workers in a struggle with management supported by their union, United Electrical.


2020 WLCC Labor Day Webinar - September 3rd, 2020

Fred Rose - Welcome & Intro to Wellspring Cooperative (video 11 min.)

Kristan Bakker - Imagine if a meatpacking plant was worker-owned (video 7 min.)

Patrick Burke - On the history of labor/co-op collaboration (video 16 min.)

Mary Hoyer on current efforts at labor/co-op collaboration


Educational Resources

Click on the links below for additional information if you want to learn more about labor cooperatives

Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions, Rebecca Lurie Union Toolkit - final 11.2021.pdf  
Unions and Worker Co-ops: Why Economic Justice Requires Collaboration, Rebecca Lurie, NPQ https://nonprofitquarterly.org/unions-and-worker-co-ops-why-economic-justice-requires-collaboration/

Union Co-ops Council of US Federation of Worker Co-ops   https://unioncoops.wordpress.com/

1worker:1vote  http://1worker1vote.org/

Union Co-ops United Kingdom Manifesto Download the Manifesto

United Steelworkers Mondragon Resolution      

Rob Witherell USW on Union 3.0  https://owningabetterfuture.com/2020/08/02/union-3-0-worker-ownership-and-the-future-of-the-labor-movement/