For Immediate Release Contact: Paul Hazen, Executive Director U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council 202-957-9298
Coops 4 Decent Work – International Cooperative Day 2019 Washington, D.C. (July 6, 2019) The United States is home to over 40,000 cooperatives with 120 million members. Most people in other countries are surprised to learn that the US has so many successful cooperatives.
The products enjoyed at Happy Hour celebrating July 6, International Day of Cooperatives are just a sample of the bounty produced by the US cooperative community. Even more important is the economic engine that cooperatives provide to the US economy, particularly in rural America.
The cooperative business model has moved many farmers up the value chain – owning some of the most recognizable and successful brands in America. While these farmers were developing the production and processing of products, they were also creating decent jobs for their families and communities. This has been true for Land O’Lakes and Ocean Spray for decades, but co-ops are now leading a new approach linking farmers in the developing world to workers and consumers in the United States, creating decent work along the way.
A great example of this is Equal Exchange. Founded in 1986 as a cooperative, Equal Exchange was about decent work from the beginning. The founders created a social change organization that would help farmers and their families gain more control over their economic futures. A group that would educate consumers about trade issues affecting farmers. A provider of high-quality foods that would nourish the body and the soul. A company that would be controlled by the people who did the work. A community of dedicated individuals who believed that honesty, respect, and mutual benefit are integral to any worthwhile endeavor.
Today the cooperative has 126 worker owners and is importing fair trade products from around the world, paying premium prices to farmers and creating wealth and social well-being for their worker owners. Recent studies conducted by OCDC’s Research Group (RG) prove the economic and social impact cooperative have around the world.
The “What Difference Do Cooperatives Make?” research project is a multi-year, multi-country, and cross-sector regional research study on the effects cooperatives have on the social and economic well-being of individuals and the broader effects that they have in communities where they are located. In many developing countries, cooperatives offer one of the few opportunities for upward mobility to broad sections of society. Often cultural, religious, economic and social class barriers exist in the overall society and an open, independent, voluntarily democratic business that encourages economic participation, education, training and concern for community is the paramount opportunity for advancement. The RG’s research in Poland, Kenya and the Philippines proves that cooperatives offer a better income for their members and social benefits for the community. Cooperatives are the foundation for decent work and on July 6 we celebrate the International Day of Cooperatives.
OCDC brings together organizations committed to building a more prosperous world through cooperatives. Its mission is to champion, advocate and promote effective international cooperative development. OCDC members are global leaders in cooperative development in Africa, Latin America and Asia. With projects in over 70 counties, OCDC members implement the largest portfolio of cooperative development programs in the world. Members are: Equal Exchange, GENEX, Global Communities, HealthPartners, Land O’Lakes International Development, National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International, NRECA International and the World Council of Credit Unions.