Union Coops

A union co-op is a form of worker cooperative that gives trade unions a key role in governance.

The idea for union co-op approaches comes out of a rich shared heritage between the cooperative and trade union movements, bound together to find solutions to problems so often experienced by workers today. These include precarious work, low pay and zero-hours contracts.

A mutual desire to resist this and other inequalities and injustices, both in and outside the workplace, drives the demand for worker’s control, democracy and equality of relationships.

Within a union co-op there is a formal place for a trade union to represent its members as workers whilst the worker members actually manage the business they own.

A group of cooperative and union activists in the UK, including representation from PCDN, has recently drawn up a Manifesto which highlights the need for decent work in these times of huge changes in the economy, unstable geo-politics and climate change.

There was a sound case for this before the COVID-19 pandemic but now, perhaps even more so, we require creative and innovative ideas for building back better.

The Manifesto lays out ten key cooperative principles to frame the development of union co-ops and describes a number of international case studies of cooperatives that have successfully allied with trade unions in different ways.

These approaches share a focus on workplace democracy, strengthening union organising, and reciprocal relationships with communities.

As such, the union co-op can be an important complement to the place-based community wealth building approach in Preston.