Cast of Characters: Bernardo - Barcelona & Baltimore
April 26, 2018
Wow, GIFS are annoying - sorry Bernardo ;-)
Early on in my time in Barcelona, I heard an American voice across a crowded room (in fact i think it was at this PIC event at Can Masdeu) talking about workers coops, which obviously caught my attention. When I sat down to chat and he was wearing an IWW cap I knew we'd have some stuff in common.
He was studying governance structures in workers coops with a 3 month placement in Barcelona, since he's a fluent Spanish speaker. Which helped much of the time, but not all the time since Catalan is the default language unless there are a lot of foreigners around.
He was my first choice of companion for going to a panel discussion on municipalism and the cooperative/solidarity economy of Barclona and we both struggled through it trying to work out who the speakers were, let alone what they were talking about. We think some of them disagreed about what was a priority and over ethics and things. But we were mainly working on body language. Crucially though, we identified the person chairing the meeting as someone we wanted to talk to. And then it turned out he was the co-author of this book... oh, hang on, i'm tangenting on to Ivan. You'll have to wait for that.
Back to Bernardo - in that first conversation, he very helpfully gave me a brief overview of what he knows about the US workers coop scene, the US Federation of Workers Coops and Democracy at Work Institute. He also described what he know of the Baltimore Roundtable on Economic Democracy (BRED) which is a sort of mutual aid loan fund aiming to increase worker ownership amongst disadvantaged communities. Pretty cool. And it's somehow linked to or seeded by The Working World, which seems to be doing spectacularly well at financing and training new workers coops in the USA, Nicaragua and Argentina. Oh, wait, another tangent. The point is that his info has helped inform my choices of where to go and who to meet - Baltimore wasn't on my map before I met him and I hadn't grasped that the Working World was starting to seed local funds.
And, of course, it turns out that Bernardo is now directly involved in BRED and has been working closely with Jim Johnson whom I'm meeting tomorrow night in Washington at Compersia Community, a sister member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities - income-sharing like Twin Oaks So my next few days are a joyous jumble of community dinners at Twin Oaks and Compersia, ah-so-you-must-know-so-and-so conversations, Baltimore Bicycle Works, Red Emmas worker-coop bookstore/coffeehouse and a political singalong at Compersia, which makes up for missing out on the campfire at our Worker Coop Weekend next month.
Last, but definitely not least - by fabulous chance Bernardo's partner is in a production of Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim, which, as everyone knows, is one of the best musicals of all time, so that's my Saturday night sorted. Life just couldn't get much better :-)