Last Thursday, visiting scholar Anjel Errasti (University of the Basque Country), gave an engaging lecture on the debate about cooperative internationalization. In his talk, Errasti explored the cross-national transfer of cooperative employment practices in multinational worker cooperative, drawing on detailed case studies of two historical and successful European cooperatives: the French ‘Up Group’ and the Mondragon ‘Fagor Ederlan Group’.
Up, headquartered in Paris, is one of the largest cooperatives in France. Founded in 1956, Up has 3,400 employees in 17 countries, mostly in Europe and Latin America, who work with more than a million customers and 21.3 million users of its services and products. In contrast, Ederlan has 3,456 workers and operates as copperative integrated in the Basque Mondragon Group, one of the leading cooperative groups in the world. Ederlan is a global supplier of automotive components for large multinational manufacturers, and has 20 plants and productive alliances in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.
Based on the firm’s documents and interviews with cooperative members and subsidiary employees at different organizational levels, Errasti highlighted the tensions that face Workers Cooperatives when they expand globally through the setting-up of capitalist subsidiaries. He demonstrated there was a great effort made by both cooperatives in the cross-national diffusion of work organization systems and certain HRM practices on behalf of employee efficiency. However, the attempts that were made for the implementation of the core cooperative practices in the foreign subsidiaries have been unfruitful and were deferred, contrary to what has been done in the their domestic subsidiaries.
Errasti concluded that the policies and actions developed by the multinational Workers Cooperatives to transfer cooperative employment practices (ex: employee participation in ownership, profit sharing, and general management) are not only conditioned by institutional factors, as literature maintains, but mainly in politics and power relations between the headquarters and the subsidiaries. Errasti’s talk ended with a lively discussion among the faculty, students, and other visiting scholars at the Center for Basque Studies. Eskerrik asko, Anjel!
Anjel Errasti investigates cooperatives, especially Mondragon cooperative internationalization, at the Institute of Cooperative Law and Social Economy (GEZKI) at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). He is visiting the CBS to do research in the Jon Bilbao Basque Library about Mondragon subsidiaries in the United States. This is what he says about his stay in Reno, “This is the second time I have come to Reno. Both times, I came with my son Lur, who goes to Reno High School. Somehow, both of us are attached to the Center for Basque Studies, UNR, this city and this country, where we have marvelous friends. We are leaving by Christmas, but we hope that we will come back in the future. It’s been such an awesome experience!”