By CUNY CED
Pittsburgh, PA is the home of a new worker cooperative, the ‘Clean and Green Laundry.’ The industrial-scale cleaning firm was brought into being by a joint effort of the United Steel Workers and the City University of New York School of Law’s Community Economic Development (CED) Clinic, both of whom are in a new partnership with the Mondragon Cooperatives, the largest worker-owned cooperative in the world, located in Spain.
Under the new partnership, the CED Clinic, in collaboration with Pennsylvania-based Regional Housing Legal Services, will help launch the job-creating effort, an eco-friendly laundry based on Mondragon’s cooperative model.
Pittsburgh Clean & Green aims to re-employ 100 primarily minority laundry workers, who were laid off when their Sodexho Corporation laundry closed. They will work in a new state-of-the-art facility in Pittsburgh’s Central District.
Photo: Industrial laundry similar to ‘Clean & Green’
CUNY’s CED Clinic will provide legal support for a new model of unionized worker cooperatives—called “union coops”—recently launched by Mondragon, the United Steelworkers union (USW), and the Ohio Employment Ownership Center (OEOC).
“Union coops can create well-paying, democratically run workplaces in communities hard hit by the economic recession,” explains Carmen Huertas-Noble, associate professor and director of the CED Clinic. “The union component of the model provides front line worker-owners with the security of a collective bargaining agreement and leverages the organizational expertise and economic power of the labor movement.”
By partnering with Mondragon USA, the CED Clinic aims to become a national leader in the integration of cooperative and labor law and to help union coops like Pittsburgh Clean & Green Laundry get off the ground.
The CED Clinic will collaborate with Mondragon USA to:
- Develop the legal framework for the USW-Mondragon-OEOC union-coop model nationwide
- Support other ongoing union-coop projects following the USW-Mondragon-OEOC model
- Connect with key sources of U.S. financing, such as the National Cooperative Bank, foundations, advocacy groups, and public sector labor departments
- Contribute to union-coop project strategy and roll-out
- Ensure union-coop model legal standardization in both design and execution
“We are inspired by the news that CUNY Law’s CED Clinic will be working with us to develop the union coop model legal framework,” said Michael Peck, Mondragon’s North America Delegate. “Professor Huertas-Noble and CUNY Law students bring to this project a wealth of ‘hands-on’ experience and a deep commitment to community service and economic justice.”
The CUNY Law CED Clinic serves low-income and working class communities that are fighting for social and economic justice. The clinic helps build and expand the capacity of grassroots organizations to implement community development projects. These projects include creating neighborhood institutions that provide needed services and opportunities. The clinic also works with more established nonprofits in expanding and sustaining their social service programs and organizing campaigns.
With a 55-year history, Mondragon is the world’s largest industrial-cooperative group, the seventh largest corporation in Spain and the largest in Spain’s Basque region. Mondragon has annual sales of nearly $20 billion through the labor of 85,000 worker owners in 70 countries, fielding over 75 overseas production plants, backed by over 255 separate cooperative businesses and 12 proprietary cooperative R&D centers headquartered in Spain.
It has its own cooperative university, cooperative bank, and cooperative social security mutual. Mondragon cooperatives contribute between 15 percent and 20 percent of their annual profits (depending on specific business areas and associated margins) to projects reflecting the group’s social conscience and democratic principles, including “one worker, one vote,” the sovereignty of labor over capital, and community solidarity.
In October 2009, the USW and Mondragon International launched a North American partnership to create union-coop hybrids based on collective bargaining rights and in conjunction with the Mondragon principles. In March 2012, the USW, Mondragon International, and the OEOC announced the official union-coop template at the USW headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Founded in 1983, CUNY School of Law is the premier public interest law school in the country. The school trains lawyers to serve the underprivileged and disempowered and to make a difference in their communities. A greater percentage of graduates from CUNY Law choose careers in public interest and public service than any other law school in the nation. PreLaw magazine ranks CUNY Law as the #1 law school in the nation for public interest, and National Jurist ranks the Law School second in the nation for diversity. U.S. News & World Report ranks CUNY fourth in the nation for “Best Clinical Programs,” and the Princeton Review ranks CUNY Law in the top ten in the nation for “Best Law Professors.” The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has praised CUNY Law School for being one of the few law schools in the country to prepare students for practice through integrated instruction in theory, skills, and ethics.