All Things Co-op: The Canadian Worker Co-op Federation

[S6 E03] New

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In this episode of All Things Co-op, Cinar, Larry, and Kevin talk with Hazel Corcoran and Jared Blustein from the Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation. Hazel has been the CWCF's executive director since 1995 and Jared is a founding worker-owner of The Allium, a plant-based worker co-op in Calgary. The group discusses the unique landscape of the Canadian worker cooperative movement, touching on issues around building the solidarity economy and Canada's national legislation on cooperatives. Jared and Hazel speak to both the benefits of operating within the worker co-op framework as well as the challenges their organizations face in a largely capitalist economy.

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About our guests: Based primarily in Calgary, Hazel Corcoran has served as CWCF’s Executive Director since 1995. Worker co-ops appeal to Hazel as a way to empower workers and help them flourish in the workplace and learn new skills. She believes it’s the most humane way to organize the economy. She would like to see Canada’s worker co-op sector grow significantly, and hopes it can partner with government and the solidarity economy to achieve this. In addition to her work with CWCF, Hazel has also served as a director of a variety of cooperatives, in the past including Calgary Co-op, First Calgary Credit Union, le Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité, Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada. She is currently a director of The Co-operators where she chairs the Member and Co-operative Relations Committee.

Jared Blustein co-founded The Allium Restaurant and Bodega Worker Cooperative (The Allium) in Calgary. Jared believes that by empowering workers and making them the directors of produced profits, we actively create more resilient and localized economies, and more ethical societies. Moreover, the non-hierarchical and consensus-based model of many worker co-ops directly help to co-humanize and empower those involved, and develop community cohesion with dynamic ripple effects. In the spirit of allyship, Jared is continually working to help other workers establish their own cooperatives. In addition to co-operating The Allium, Jared is also a manager at the Arusha Centre Society, a non-profit organization that works on a variety of social, economic and environmental issues in Calgary.

To learn more: https://canadianworker.coop/; https://www.theallium.ca/

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Showing 2 comments

  • Stephen Sherry
    commented 2022-04-13 23:51:04 -0400
    Awesome and interesting article. Great things you’ve always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post.

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  • Robert Buratt
    commented 2022-04-13 18:20:46 -0400
    To begin with, Hazel shows the consistent tendency while speaking to lower her voice and increase rapidity of speech. Not good.
    Secondly, I would argue that there are significant differences between restaurants (and any other enterprise) run as co~ops and the standard model.
    1. Workers in co~ops decide wages as opposed to the standard model where wages are decided by the employer. This holds also for working conditions.
    2. Work in co~ops is the result of freedom of choice of the individual and his/her proclivities, as opposed to being compelled by “market forces” to take a “job”.
    3. Workers in co~ops do not “leave one’s rights at the door” of the employer but carries them into the workplace because such fundamental constitutional rights are socially recognized as inalienable and are enforced down to the man/woman.
    4. Motivation and consciousness is high in co~ops because the work entered into is done freely and is supported by the worker’s fundamental rights.
    5. In co~ops, the conditions for cooperation among Workers is a fundamental condition for the enterprise, as opposed to the back stabbing, competitive, self~promotion often seen in the standard model.
    6. In co~ops, the time schedule is far more likely to be congruent with the life schedule of the worker, and not rigidly fixed as in the standard model, often in complete disregard of the life schedule of the employee.
    7. The very language that can be used for co~ops is distinctly different; in the standard model, there are “employees” or, more generally, “labor”, which I argue, is demeaning~and then there are “bosses”~ who tell the employee what they must do~or else. “Job” titles in the standard model are fixed by the very nature of the model, unlike the fluidity of work responsibilities in co~ops where work can be rotated among the workers on a schedule worked out and agreed on, thereby giving each worker a full knowledge of the operation of the enterprise. In co~ops, titles are fluid.
    8. In co~ops, Worker’s who underperform in one area might excel in another~without the risk of getting fired; with a rotation system, excellence can have the opportunity to be observed and put yo good use, whereas in the standard model, the employee who underperform’s will be fired and replaced.
    9. In co~ops, Workers are human beings with all constitutional rights enforced and are not, thereby, viewed as “things”~“commodities”~whereas in the standard model, all~and I mean all~in the enterprise are reduced to “commodities”;
    bosses, managers, supervisors, everyone.
    9. In co~ops, worker confidence and potentialities are far more likely to be actualized, but in the standard model, this possibility is largely eliminated by “job” stratification.
    I have covered what I believe to be, ideally, several of the features of co~ops and outlined several of the differences between co~ops and the “standard model”. I hope this makes sense.
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