By Cat Johnson for Shareable – There’s been a lot of talk about where the Baby Boomer generation will live as they age. Several interesting, sharing-based housing alternatives such cohousing and senior villages have emerged as potential options. But what about all the businesses that Baby Boomers own? What happens to those companies when they retire? Project Equity, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, wants to help those businesses transition to a worker-owned model. According to the organization, “The vast majority (over 85 percent) of business owners do not have a succession plan in place, and increasingly, many are finding it hard to find a buyer when they are ready to sell.” This means they’ll either fold or fall in the hands of larger companies. The group, which was co-founded by Alison Lingane and Hilary Abell in 2014, wants businesses to avoid that fate by turning them into cooperatives. “Good decisions are built into worker cooperatives from the inside out,” Lingane told LIFT Economy. Take the example of Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives, which develops cooperatively-owned bakeries in the Bay Area. The democratic model of the bakeries has not only proved to be sustainable (the Association has been in operation for more than 20 years)…
By Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis for Open Democracy. We outline a list of six interrelated strategies for post-corporate entrepreneurial coalitions. The aim is to go beyond the classical corporate paradigm, and its extractive profit-maximizing practices, toward the establishment of open cooperatives that cultivate a commons-oriented economy. First, it’s important to recognize that closed business models are based on artificial scarcity. Though knowledge can be shared easily and at very low marginal cost when it is in digital form, closed firms use artificial scarcity to extract rents from the creation or use of digitized knowledge. Through legal repression or technological sabotage, naturally shareable goods are made artificially scarce so that extra profits may be generated. This is particularly galling in the context of life-saving medicines or planet-regenerating technological knowledge. Open cooperatives, in comparison, would recognize natural abundance and refuse to generate revenue by making abundant resources artificially scarce.
By Jay Walljasper for AlterNet – Business owners gather at an elegant Montreal event center to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a large-scale economic partnership. The former chief of Quebec’s largest bank is the guest of honor. Sidewalks bustle with people walking in and out of homes, offices, bank, pharmacy, workout studio and coffee shop at Montreal’s Technopole Angus, a development that already sports 56 business with 2500 employees and will eventually encompass a million-square-feet of real estate. Morning-shift workers unload barrels of paper onto conveyor belts emptying into giant shredding machines on the shop floor of Recyclage Vanier, a Quebec City firm specializing in secure disposal of confidential documents.
By Danny Spitzberg for Loomio – Thanks to you, Twitter has a chance to become a user-owned co-op. Imagine if the “people’s news network” was democratically owned! In April and May, Twitter shareholders will be voting on our resolution: to study the advantages of converting to democratic ownership. They’ll call the vote at the annual meeting at Twitter HQ, on May 24th or 25th. Most votes will made via proxy, especially for shareholders that have a large amount of stock in Twitter. Ideally, we win with 51% or more of the vote – and if we want to learn from this process and make a stronger proposal for 2018, we need at least 3%!
By Richard D. Wolff for Truthout. Over the last century, capitalism has repeatedly revealed its worst tendencies: instability and inequality. Instances of instability include the Great Depression (1929-1941) and the Great Recession since 2008, plus eleven “downturns” in the US between those two global collapses. Each time, millions lost jobs, misery soared, poverty worsened and massive resources were wasted. Leaders promised that their “reforms” would prevent such instability from recurring. Those promises were not kept. Reforms did not work or did not endure. The system was, and remains, the problem. Inequality likewise proved to be an inherent trend of capitalism. Only occasionally and temporarily did opposition from its victims stop or reverse it.
By Stan Smith for MLToday. The grassroots struggle to build a new society, focusing on the cooperatives, the community councils, the communes, established to strengthen popular participatory democracy, is keeping the Chavista revolution alive. This communal movement began with the fight against neoliberalism’s anti-working class measures even before the Caracazo, the 1989 outburst against IMF imposed cuts resulting in the then government killing up to 2000 protesters. In Venezuela these struggles gave rise to popular local assemblies and neighborhood councils to meet community needs neglected by the government. In the Chavez era these became institutionalized as communal councils, participatory organizations for self-governance.
By Tamara Pearson for the New Internationalist. It’s been three years now of food shortages, inflation, and queues in Venezuela, and the millions of people involved in community and movement organizing have been the most affected. But they’ve also defied right-wing and general expectations, and even perhaps the expectations of the Maduro government, and have become stronger and better organized as a result of the hardships. A worker in charge of sustainable development for the mountain town of Los Nevados for Merida’s Teleferico (cable car) and a member of an urban agriculture organization, La Minga, Loaiza was one of four people I interviewed to get a sense of how the grassroots have been affected by these difficult times – times that have been utterly sensationalised and lied about by the mainstream media. He described the current crisis as a result of politics, and ‘consumerism that isn’t working’ in an oil based, urban-centric economy where people don’t produce what they consume.
By Pete Dolack for Counter Punch – As capitalism lurches from crisis to crisis, and a world beyond capitalism becomes a possibility contemplated by increasing numbers of people, finding a path forward becomes an ever more urgent task. That path is likely to contain a multitude of possibilities and experiments, not all of which will prove viable. Psychological barriers will surely be a major inhibition to overcome; possibly the biggest roadblock given the still ubiquitous idea of “there is no alternative” that has survived despite growing despair at the mounting inequality and precarious futures offered by capitalism.
By Sam Tabachnik for DCist – On the morning of his 34th birthday, Juan Reid woke up in a van parked outside a homeless shelter. He couldn’t stop sobbing. Reid had just finished 14 years in prison, and acclimating to life on the outside was taking its toll. He could feel himself being pulled back into his old habits, tempted by the routine that got him put away. Not wanting to burden his parents any longer, and filled with shame, he elected to sleep in a van on the street instead of ask them for help. Then his phone rang. It was his mom, calling to wish him a happy birthday and say she was proud of him.
By Staff of The Next System Project – Adam Simpson: Goran, thank you for joining us today. You are the cooperative manager of the Cooperative for Ethical Financing in Croatia. Can you tell us about the process of where this idea came from and how the Cooperative was started? Goran Jeras: If you look at the origins of the idea, it has been about six years since this initiative started emerging. As all other ideas, it started as a talk over a beer. At that time, I was working in the Netherlands as a consultant, consulting with big international financial institutions, so big international banks, insurance companies, etc.
By Laura Flanders for Yes Magazine – Before Zaida Ramos joined Cooperative Home Care Associates, she was raising her daughter on public assistance, shuttling between dead-end office jobs, and not making ends meet. “I earned in a week what my family spent in a day,” she recalled. After 17 years as a home health aide at Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the largest worker-owned co-op in the United States, Ramos recently celebrated her daughter’s college graduation. She’s paying half of her son’s tuition at a Catholic school, and she’s a worker-owner in a business where she enjoys flexible hours, steady earnings, health and dental insurance, plus an annual share in the profits.
By Matt Stannard for Occupy.com. “Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away,” Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi wrote in a personal blog post over a decade ago. “Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house… Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise… Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap… Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.” Economic insecurity is the American nightmare. It kills us earlier, messes up our mental health, saps the life out of us. Since Scalzi’s 2005 post, we’ve learned that more than 60 percent of us can’t afford a $500 emergency – which roughly translates to hoping the toothache goes away. That’s a pretty raw deal in exchange for an economic system that’s also killing the planet. And only rarely can we count on others to help us out. They’re either broke themselves, or profiting from our financial instability.
By Melissa Hellmann for Yes Magazine – Delonte Wilkins was looking for a fresh start when he was released from Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution in February. He polished his resume and applied to several jobs in his hometown of Washington, D.C. But when he was turned down for three job offers once those employers learned of his criminal background, Wilkins soon realized he couldn’t easily leave his felony behind.
By Michelle Camou for GEO – City governments are shaping up as key actors accelerating worker co-op development. It started in 2009 when the City of Cleveland accessed a federal guaranteed loan to help finance the Evergreen Cooperatives. Since then, nine more city governments have moved to promote worker cooperatives through municipal projects, initiatives, or policies because they want to reach people and communities often left out of mainstream economic development. Other city governments including Philadelphia are considering it now.