A retailers' cooperative (often known as a secondary or marketing
co-operative in the UK) is an organization which employs economies
of scale on behalf of its members to get discounts from manufacturers
and to pool marketing. It is common for locally-owned grocery
stores, hardware stores and pharmacies. In this case the members
of the cooperative are businesses rather than individuals.
The well-known Best Western hotel chain is
actually a giant cooperative, although it now prefers to
call itself a "nonprofit membership
association." It gave up on the "cooperative" label
after the courts kept insisting on calling it a franchisor despite
its nonprofit status.
A utility cooperative is a public utility that is owned by its
customers (an arrangement also known as a consumer cooperative).
In the US, many such cooperatives were formed to provide rural
electrical and telephone service as part of the New Deal. See
Rural Utilities Service.
A worker cooperative is a cooperative tat is wholly owned and
democratically controlled by its "worker-owners".
There are no outside, or consumer owners, in a worker's cooperative
- only the workers
own shares of the business. Membership is not compulsory for
employees, and only employees can become members. Probably the
best known example of worker co-operation is the Mondragon Cooperative
Corporation (MCC) in the Basque Country.
Unions are often unnecessary in worker cooperatives because the
workers have direct control over the management and ownership of
the business - they are negotiating with themselves. Some worker
cooperatives still choose to become members of local unions for
particular reasons - the printing industry is one example in which
union shops often receive a special market of business (union members).
The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives is the organization
in the US representing worker cooperative interests nationally.
There are local networks and federations throughout the US in the
San Francisco Bay area, the Twin Cities, Portland Oregon, and Boston.
The 'new wave' of worker cooperatives that took off in Britain
in the mid-70s created the Industrial Common Ownership Movement
(ICOM) as their federation. The sector peaked at around 2,000 enterprises,
and in 2001 ICOM merged with the Co-operative Union (which was
the federal body for consumer cooperatives) to create Co-operatives
UK, thus reunifying the cooperative sector.
There are examples of "hybrid" co-ops in which workers
and consumers both have membership in a co-op, but the types of
membership are differentiated, sometimes into districts of the
cooperative, often each district having a set amount of decision
making power and profit distribution. Hybrid co-ops are also referred
to as multi-stakeholder cooperatives. A particularly successful
form of multi-stakeholder cooperative is the Italian "social
cooperative", of which some 5,000 exist. A "type A" social
cooperative brings together providers and beneficiaries of a social
service as members. A "type B" social cooperative brings
together permanent workers and previously unemployed people who
wish to integrate into the labor market.
The term cooperative also applies to businesses owned by their
customers. Employees can also generally become members. Members
vote on major decisions, and elect the board of directors from
amongst their own number. A well known example in the US is the
REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) co-op.
One of the world's largest consumer co-operatives is the Co-operative
Group in the United Kingdom, which has a variety of retail and
financial services. In reality the Co-operative Group is actually
something of a hybrid, having both corporate (other cooperative
businesses) and individual members.
In the US
Farmers often maintain marketing cooperatives, some of which are
government-sponsored, which promote and may actually distribute
specific commodities. Examples include:
> Cotton Incorporated (cotton),
> Farmland Originally a full-service cooperative, filed for Chapter
11 bankruptcy in 2002. (Processed meat divison most well-known
> Florida's Natural Growers (citrus)
> Land O'Lakes (dairy and farm supply).
> Ocean Spray (cranberries and citrus),
> Sunkist Growers, Incorporated (citrus fruit),
> Sun-Maid (raisins),
> Tillamook County Creamery Association (dairy)
> Nebraska Rural Radio Association A group of farmer/rancher owned
radio stations in Nebraska
> In California and other states where it is legal, medical marijuana
is generally produced by cooperatives.
In other parts of the World
There are strong agricultural / agribusiness cooperatives, and
agricultural cooperative banks, in most European countries.
Most emerging countries are experiencing a significant development
of agricultural cooperatives, an economic sector prone to cooperation
either for export or for local needs.
Cooperative banking (Credit union and Cooperative savings banks)
Credit Unions provide a form of cooperative banking. In North
America, the caisse populaire movement started by Alphonse
in Quebec, Canada pioneered credit unions. Desjardins wanted
to bring desperately needed financial protection to working people.
In 1900, from his home in Lévis, Quebec, he opened North
America's first credit union, marking the beginning of the Mouvement
Credit Unions are also established in the UK. The largest are
work-based, but many are now offering services in the wider community.
The Association of British Credit unions--or ABCUL--is the largest
such organisation in the UK, representing the majority of Credit
Important European banking cooperatives include the Credit Agricole
in France and the Raiffeisen system in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands,
and Belgium. Spain, Italy and various European countries also have
strong cooperative banks. They play an important part in mortgage
credit and professional (i.e. farming) credit. Cooperative banking
networks, which were nationalized in Eastern Europe, work now as
real cooperative institutions.
Car sharing is a process by which multiple households share vehicles,
which are stored in convenient common locations. It may be thought
of as a very short-term, locally-based car rental. It is most
prevalent in Switzerland (where the Mobility Car-Sharing cooperative
has some 50,000 clients), but is also common in Germany, Austria,
and the Netherlands, and is growing in popularity in other European
countries. Car sharing operations may be for-profit or non-profit
organizations. Zipcar and Flexcar are examples.