Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

The Labour Movement and Co-operatives

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2017), 112, (1), 7–24.

Abstract

The labour and co-operative movements are collective organisations that have similar roots and share a strong emphasis on democratic practices that seek to ensure the best for their community. There is both alignment and tensions in their relationship. Consumer co-operatives have supported unions and provided support to striking workers. However, co-operatives are also businesses that need to ensure financial survival. This has the potential to place co-operatives in conflict with organised labour particularly regarding labour costs. Workers may also have greater commitment to the organisation given that they are also part owners, particularly in the case of worker co-operatives. The co-operative ideal of “political neutrality” has also complicated the relationship between co-operatives and the labour movement. This paper will focus on some areas of alignment and tension between the labour movement and consumer retail and worker co-operatives drawing primarily on the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, UK and US experience.

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Footnotes

*The authors would like to thank Labour History’s two anonymous referees as well as the Berkeley Historical Society and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Google Scholar

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Author details

Balnave, Nikola

Patmore, Greg