Mondragon: Worker Ownership for Prosperity

Spain’s civil war left Spaniards in poverty and pain. Industry was devastated, there were no jobs for locals or returning soldiers. To make matters worse, Spain’s economy had suffered financial ruins. 

A young priest saw these challenges as an opportunity to create a new model of prosperity that provided workers with skills and education for viable employment. José María Arizmendiarrieta laid the foundation for Mondragon “to establish a fairer and more caring company that respects the freedom, dignity, and development of both the individual and community.” He created a school of engineering for workforce development. In 1956, five of its students formed the first of many Mondragon cooperative businesses. 

Today, Mondragon is the largest cooperative in the world. It umbrellas 261 companies in four areas: industry, retail, finance, and knowledge. Over 74,000 worker-members call the co-op their own.  Mondragon has an international presence and a strong financial standing that suggest a future of growth and prosperity. 

Mondragon empowers worker-owners with fair pay, fair hours, and fair distribution of profits. A portion of each division is pooled and distributed among members as patronage. Retained earnings are invested in developing new co-ops through the Inter-Cooperative Solidarity Fund, and to enhancing the education and training of members. 

Mondragon’s goals for the future include: innovation, promoting member participation and a transition to a participatory management model, and expanding to new sectors. 

Mondragon can serve as a model of how grassroots economic development creates strong viable businesses, local economic prosperity, and jobs that empower workers through cooperation.

References

“Co-operative Experience.” Mondragon Corporation. (May 2007). Retrieved from http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/en/co-operative-experience/ 

“About Mondragon.”(n.d.). Retrieved from  http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/en/