Policy for a united economy: lessons from Canada and Spain – Non Profit News
How can public policies support cooperatives and a united economy? During a virtual conference sponsored by the Institute of Cooperativism at the University of Puerto Rico, held May 28 in San Juan, participants from New York; Seville, Spain (Andalusia); Montreal, Canada (Quebec); and Puerto Rico answered this question.
Puerto Rico has a long history of supporting cooperatives. The Institute itself dates from 1953. Puerto Rico is also home to the Seguros Multiples, 55 years old cooperative, a leading insurance company, which Dun & Bradstreet estimates brings in $ 137 million in annual revenue.
In the wake of bankruptcy, Hurricane Maria and now COVID-19, community economic approaches have gained new attention. This year, an effort in Puerto Rico to pass legislation on worker cooperatives failed. But efforts in this direction continue.
New York City Deputy Mayor J. Philip Thompson initiated the procedure. The Wall Street house may seem like a strange place to start, and Thompson himself noted that “Puerto Rico is much more advanced than New York in thinking about cooperative strategies.”
Yet the Big Apple, like NPQ covered, was a U.S. leader in supporting worker co-ops, which Thompson’s office supported. In his remarks, Thompson noted that support for employee ownership and cooperatives is driven by the failure of conventional approaches. As Thompson recounted, “Since 1968, there have been over 10,000 African Americans elected to various levels of government in the United States, but median net wealth has actually declined by eight percent since 1968. We have many more people elected to positions, but economically things have gotten worse. We even had a black president. Things got worse.
As a result, Thompson says, “We think we have to do something. We have to think outside the box. Thompson advised changing the culture first. Policy change, Thompson noted, “starts with helping people imagine. Without a new imagination, you cannot have a new policy. We sent City Hall staff to Mondragón, Spain, to better understand the policies of the Basque country aimed at accelerating innovation and inclusive ownership. the Mondragon cooperatives are like NPQ noted earlier this year a network of 96 work cooperative enterprises that employs more than 81,000 people.
When it comes to politics, one of the benefits of employee ownership is that it can help keep existing businesses. “We use the fact that many homeowners are approaching retirement as a springboard or a trampoline,” says Thompson, adding, “We launched a communications campaign last December. We have reached tens of thousands of businesses so far.
Nonetheless, as Thompson acknowledges, New York City is at an early stage in its cooperative development, with at most a few thousand worker-owners in a city of over eight million people. Two other speakers, one from Montreal and one from Seville, both spoke of decades-long efforts to build support for community ownership.
Béatrice Alain conducts The Social Economy Worksite —The word “site” literally means site. Over the past decades, the center has sought to build a large sector of the economy that prioritizes social solidarity. The organization of the social economy in Quebec really took off in the mid-1990s. 2013 provincial law on social economy now provides formal support. With a population similar to that of New York, Alain estimates that the social and solidarity economy in Quebec has approximately 11,200 businesses employing approximately 220,000 people.
That said, many challenges remain, not the least of which is the limited recognition of the Canadian federal government. One of the important political achievements has been the provincial support for specialized banking-type institutions which help to capitalize social economy enterprises. These companies have also made significant gains in childcare and Home Care. The Quebec childcare system offers significant subsidies to non-profit, often multi-party cooperatives (called “solidarity cooperatives” in Quebec). April 2021 Bloomberg The article noted that the cost of childcare services in Quebec is set at less than CAN $ 9 per day. The article adds, “Studies have shown that the low-cost subsidized provincial program not only significantly boosts mothers’ participation in the labor market, but is paid through increased tax revenues generated by more working women.
Dalia Borge, Latin American director of Escuela de Economía Social y Solidaria (School for Social and Solidarity Economy) in Seville, Andalusia, Spain, tells a similar story. It turns out that Andalusia is also home to a little more eight millions people. In Andalusia, social pacts involving labor, business and the Andalusian government were essential. Three of these multi-year pacts were in force between 2002 and 2015, before ultimately, in 2018, formal legislation institutionalized a permanent Andalusian-wide social economy “council”. Borge says that in Andalusia there are 6,000 social economy enterprises, which employ 82,000 people. A five-year government plan emphasizes refining assessment metrics and supporting a business finance framework.
What can Puerto Rico learn from these experiences? The challenges she faces are enormous and are reflected in the 2020 census figures which show that the population has fallen between 2010 and 2020 from 11.8% to 3.3 million. At the same time, most of the efforts to build a social and solidarity economy at the international level were born out of adversity. Unemployment in Quebec in the early 1990s, before the organization of the solidarity economy took hold, was 14 percent. (By 2017, it had fallen below five percent).
At the conference, Grisell Reyes Nunez, professor at the Institute, spoke about the growth of the Institute. The Institute deepened its work in the sector by launching its cooperative management program in 2016. It has also advocated for public policies, such as this year’s proposed worker cooperatives law. At the conference, Brenda Varela Garcia, second vice president of Seguros Múltiples, whose cooperative had supported the political effort, noted possible gains at the municipal level and pledged to continue supporting Porto-wide legislation. Rico.
Meanwhile, amid the pandemic, co-ops have found new strength in Puerto Rico. An article published on May 31 by Oscar Serrano from NotiCel, for example, reported that credit unions in Puerto Rico saw their assets grow from $ 8.8 billion in 2019 to $ 10.4 billion in 2020, their fastest growth rate in a decade. Over one million of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people are member-owners of credit unions.
Worker cooperatives are also experiencing an expansion, which is one of the reasons why worker cooperative policy is being debated, even though the desired laws have not yet been passed. A major effort is in the energy, where the newly formed REMCOOP seeks to use a worker cooperative model to support the diffusion of solar energy across the island.
More broadly, in Puerto Rico, cooperatives are increasingly seen as agents of economic development. One year ago, Rafael Beltrán Peña, president of the Puerto Rican Cooperative League, observed amid COVID-19’s initial economic shutdown that it finds itself in “times like these … when we clearly differentiate ourselves from purely capitalist companies, and when we see the importance of legal safeguards and policies organizations that protect and support the cooperative organization. Because cooperation is undoubtedly essential and inherent in the human condition.