On our first day exploring Mondragon, my comrade Alexa and I found an abandoned factory at the edge of town. This factory has been abandoned for quite some time.
Inside the abandoned factory at Mondragon’s city limits. Photo by Alexa Mills.
Why and how it closed remained a mystery as we walked the full square block of the buildings. It seemed as though the machines and workers had been removed in a moment, and no one returned to finish packing.
I dug through some of the rubble hoping to find a piece of this factory’s story and, in what looked like an office, I found a clue. Amongst fallen wires and an old travel magazine I found a UGT/SCA membership card from 1988.
Finding a union card on a trip to learn about cooperatives seemed fortuitous. I was immediately filled with questions.
Was the factory closed because its company refused to bow to “union demands”? Did this union worker abandon his union card along with his belief in collective bargaining? If this factory had been a coop, would the worker/owners have found a way to keep this factory open?
One of the most attractive qualities of the Mondragon Cooperative model is its dedication to keeping its members employed. When a factory is closed, the workers are retrained and moved to another cooperative. I hope this union worker is now working at FAGOR or Eroski or another Mondragon factory, or happily retired with a decent pension.
Antonio: if you are reading this blog let me know what has become of you.
Post by Malia Lazu.
Editor’s note: On July 28 this clarifying comment came through from Mikel Lezamiz of Mondragon: The abandoned building wasn´t a cooperative because in the Union Card we can read EMPRESA: POLMETASA, and this is an existing conventional company that was at the edge of town. In 2007 an estate agency and construction company bought the land in order to build private apartments. But when POLMETASA built the new factory 3 kilometres away from Arrasate-Mondragon and they live the old land (in 2009), the economic crisis was here and now nobody wants to buy a house. So, now the old factory land is bad condition and it will continues probably for many years.
A group of American community and business leaders is posting from Mondragón, Spain, home to a 100,000 employee-strong worker-owned cooperative, from July 17th to 23rd.