Thursday, October 26, 2006

This is a response to comments made to my post about the founder of Eroski and its history. Since there have been a few comments recently and this post is buried a few weeks back, I wanted to put it here: Click here to see the original or here to see my first post about Eroski:

My father asked for an explanation about how COOP, the Italian Grocery chain and Eroski are part of a development vision that runs counter to and competes with the Low Road retail trend.
Matt knows a bit more about COOP then I do about Eroski, but I can back up the statement he made that Eroski represents an alternative to Low Road retailers like Wal-Mart or Carrefour. First of all Eroski is owned by its employees and allows consumers to join as members (but not owners) with a limited amount representation. As a worker owner, employees are allowed the right to vote on management of the company, are guaranteed secure employment with excellent benefits, and substantial pensions as well as a large bonus when they retire which represent their share of the company. A little more then half of the workers are not owners. There is a commitment to involve them in some form of ownership, (however, the exact type of ownership depends on if they are outside of the Basque country or not it is a bit complex to get into now) and they are significantly better-paid then comparable workers in other chains in Spain. There is also a commitment to develop organic and fair-trade products particularly under Eroski´s own labels and to support Spain agriculture. Finally, Eroski´s expansion was in direct response to the threat of outside chains, Low Road chains flooding the Spanish market, including Basque Country, so the decided to step and expand to limit the space for these retailers to expand.
The very ownership structure is about long-term investment and the wellbeing of local communities. The cooperative structure prioritizes re-investment in the company rather than a focus on quick profits for shareholders or owners. Even the expansion scheme in areas outside of the Basque Region calls for incorporating local, non-profit capital to get projects off the ground and form local partners.


Dan Bianchi said...

Olga thanks for the comment. It is supposed to be Low Road retailers. I already changed it.


Bill Bianchi said...

Dan, I find the Eroski retail coop most interesting, probably because so much of our identity here in the US derives from our roles as consumers rather than producers. I’d like to learn more about the operation of Eroski in comparison to low-road retailers. You suggest that their coop ownership structure supports local development and control, healthful lifestyles, and individual economic security. I like to find out specifics about how that works. The obverse of my interest is how the low-road retail ownership structures that we are familiar with promote insecurity, unhealthful lifestyles and make local development more difficult. I have a hunch that the Eroski message would be a very important message for US workers to hear.
I will talk to you more about this on email.

Anonymous said...

So that you have another picture on Eroski, ask the unions.

I don't remember which the main unions in Deba valley are. Check LAB, ELA-STV, UGT and Comisiones Obreras and you will have everything covered.
Ask them about their trials to make inroads in cooperatives, specially in those with so many salary workers as Eroski.

You should also seek contact with producers and ask them a comparison if they see a difference in size leverage between Eroski and other mass buyers.

Dan Bianchi said...


Sounds like good a good place to start. I have heard very anecdotally that unions have attempted to organize some Eroski stores. However, I have heard similarly anecdotally that they have had much less worker strife then their competitors in Spain. However, it is a little complicated given that in Spain coop members cannot join unions and the intention of MCC is to expand ownership to its workers.

By the way. Who are you? You seem to know something about Eroski, why not share?