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Chapter Two: Expansion of the Cooperative Movement

While my father was Executive Secretary, the U.S. Cooperative Movement grew by leaps and bounds, largely due to his leadership. The League office in Chicago expanded from a two-room hole in the wall to a complex of offices that covered more than an entire floor of Chicago's Fisher Building. By the time he retired as President of the Cooperative League, the League offices had to be moved to a new, more spacious headquarters on Jackson Street in a building in the heart of the loop with a spectacular view of the lake front. The League had moved up-town. About the time my father moved back out to California in 1970 the Cooperative League moved its headquarters again; this time to Washington, D.C., only a few blocks away from the White House. The new Washington D.C. headquarters was even more extensive than the complex of offices in Chicago. Interestingly enough, the Cooperative League became so successful both financially and politically that its leadership became more conservative and Republican. By the 1980's the Cooperative League was renamed the National Cooperative Business Association.

Ironically enough my father, the former liberal congressman, opposed to move to Washington. He did so on the grounds that the cooperative movement should not become too dependent on the government, and more, especially, the federal government. He had been very successful at getting federal grant money for various cooperative activities particularly in the field of foreign aid and especially during the Kennedy-Johnson years. However, he knew that whatever the government gives can also be taken away. This could happen anytime there is a change of administration. My father became convinced that cooperatives must remain independent and a part of the private sector. In his opinion, co-ops that were dependent upon or controlled by the state were not true cooperatives. This was why he strongly opposed the so-called cooperatives that existed in communist states like the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. In meetings of the International Cooperative Alliance, the United Nations of the world-wide cooperative movement, he and his fellow cooperators from the United States were almost always at odds with representatives from communist countries in the body. This consistent anti-communism gained friends for my father from more conservative leaders of the American Cooperative Movement like Howard Cowden.

During my father's tenure in office at the Cooperative League he was responsible for founding or expanding the following organizations: the Cooperative League Fund, and the Cooperative Foundation which financed new cooperatives throughout the United States; the Cooperative News Service, the Associated Press of the U.S. Cooperative Movement; Co-op Report, a magazine which became the U.S. Cooperative Movement's equivalent of Time Magazine; various management training institutes; the Group Health Association of America; the National Association of Housing Cooperatives; and the National Student Cooperative Organization. Finally, he was instrumental in establishing the Organization of Cooperatives of America or O.C.A.. O.C.A. was the cooperative equivalent of the Organization of American States, and eventually it included cooperative organizations from all the Latin American countries, with the exception of Cuba, plus the United States, Canada, and eventually the Caribbean countries.

Similar to his father Charles Voorhis who had been a successful executive in the automobile industry, my father was a skillful and successful private sector business executive while he worked for the U.S. Cooperative Movement. After moving back out to California in 1970, my father continued to be active during the last 14 years of his life. Groups in which he was involved included the California Commission on Aging, the Greater Pomona Housing Corporation, the Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies, the Consumer Federation of America, and, or course, the Democratic Party.

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