When electric cooperative members look at the seven cooperative principles, many may question if they live up to the first one: voluntary and open membership.
There is a two-part answer.
First, it is important to remember that when Wasco Electric Cooperative formed, every potential member had the option to refuse service.
While it may be hard to believe today, there are numerous stories from electric cooperatives throughout the country where the farmer said, “No thanks. We are doing fine with kerosene.”
Of course, eventually they changed their minds and became members of the cooperative.
Due to the incredible cost of offering electric service, most people and businesses only have one choice if they want to connect to the grid and receive electricity.
While that may change in the future due to rooftop solar or other generation sources, the best option for most people for safe, reliable and affordable power is from their local electric cooperative.
Today, electric cooperatives focus on the second part of the principle: open membership. All residents and businesses in WEC’s service territory are welcome to receive power.
WEC strives to ensure your membership has value to you not just through the service of electricity, but by being an active part of the community.
The cooperative offers and welcomes your participation in the governance of the organization through a democratically elected board of directors.
As a locally owned and controlled utility, WEC is in a better position to understand the needs of its members and can be quicker to react to help ensure the membership receives the best service possible.
Members are welcome to suggest improvements to the cooperative’s operations. Unlike large investor-owned utilities often with millions of customers, you can be assured your ideas are read by a real person in real time.
All cooperatives—whether it is your credit union, farm cooperative, telephone cooperative or any other of the 29,000 cooperatives that exist in the United States today—live by these seven principles:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Members’ economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community
By integrating all of these principles together, your cooperative is able to serve your needs every day.
Courtesy of Adam Schwartz, founder of The Cooperative Way.