Baltimore has become what many consider to be ground zero in the emerging “solidarity economy” and the formation of worker-owned, cooperatively run businesses. There’s something important going on here, and there’s a lot that we can all learn from our fellow workers who are in the cooperative space—people who are living, breathing proof that there’s another way to run a business, that there's another way to run our economy, and that there are other ways we can treat work and workers. At a recent event hosted by the Baltimore Museum of Industry titled "Work Matters: Building a Worker-Owned Co-op," Max moderated a panel including workers and representatives from Common Ground Bakery Café, Taharka Bros Ice Cream, A Few Cool Hardware Stores, and the Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy (BRED).
Igalia is an open source tech co-op success story. We have been around for 22 years; we have 140 members. We play an essential role in several open web platform projects such as Chromium/Blink, WebKit (WPE & WebKitGTK), Firefox and Servo. We have contributed to GNOME / GTK+ / Maemo, WebKit / WebKitGtk+ / JSC, Blink / V8, Gecko / SpiderMonkey projects, amongst others. The reason we started as a co-op and the reason the focus of our work is Free and Open Source software are one and the same. Both are implementations of our values, in a word: egalitarianism. In this talk you will hear a bit about our history.
Since its first proposal in 2014, Platform Cooperativism has evolved into a global movement as an alternative to Platform Capitalism. The concept has been adopted in over 546 known projects across 50 countries. The establishment of the Platform Cooperativism Consortium (PCC), serving as a knowledge hub for the global community, marked a significant milestone. PCC fosters inspiration, knowledge, outcomes, and impacts—I am a testament to this, considering myself a small yet integral piece of the evidence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I enrolled in the online course ‘Platform Co-op Now!’
In the heart of Victoria, British Columbia, a remarkable transformation story has been threaded by The Make House. What started as a 10-year-old sole proprietorship blossomed into a worker co-operative in December 2022. Host Robin Puga had an enlightening conversation with Tanya King, Studio Manager and Board Vice-President, unraveling the journey behind this creative pivot. he Make House began as a sole proprietorship. Faced with the prospect of the owner selling the business, the staff team decided to reimagine the future of The Make House. The decision to shift to a worker co-operative model was fueled by a desire to deepen their community roots and engage in democratic decision-making
How do we transform societal structures and pave the way to economic democracy? Professor Jessica Gordon-Nembhard explores the potential of cooperatives and solidarity economics as pathways towards economic democracy and justice. Drawing on historical examples from the civil rights movement and the Knights of Labor in the 1880s, Gordon-Nembhard demonstrates how cooperative economics can counteract the exploitation inherent in capitalist systems. She underlines the importance of communal ownership and shared decision-making as mechanisms for wealth redistribution, arguing that such models can liberate communities from economic exploitation.
Sierra Allen, 21-year-old barista, had just ended their shift at Baltimore’s Common Ground Cafe on July 2, 2023, when a co-worker texted them the shocking news: Owner Michael Krupp was unceremoniously closing the beloved coffee shop for good and laying off its 30 employees, effective immediately. “It was a moment of shock. I was in a grocery store, and I burst into tears, because no one knew what was going on.” Allen was devastated by the news that they were losing a job that provided stable employment and a supportive community. The layoffs left them struggling financially—to get unemployment and to keep up with mounting bills.
Platform cooperatives have emerged as a recent alternative to capitalist platforms. By bringing the cooperative principles online, they have positioned themselves within the rich heritage of the two hundred years of cooperative movement history. However, they have also inherited the burden of its unresolved problems. In fact, as Yochai Benkler (2017) has eloquently stated, cooperativism has not played a transformative role in the past two centuries of capitalism. The path to proving that platform cooperatives can have a transformative role, putting an end to the obscene inequalities and forms of exploitation of the digital economy, may require revisiting the roots of cooperative identity and addressing its obstacles.
In the wake of global anti-racism movements and a growing awareness of the problematic dynamics of colonial knowledge-making in international development, governments, academics and NGOs are scrambling to reposition themselves and their work in order to address systemic power imbalances. Yet, feminist economists like those at the International Association of Feminist Economics (IAFFE) have pointed out that many efforts and the scholarship largely informing the policy remain superficial, and do not go far enough in tackling the root causes of economic inequality, social and business exclusion.
On September 22nd, students graduating with either a Graduate Diploma or a Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions (MMCCU) were greeted with boisterous whoops and feet stomping from the 12 faculty of the program who joined the Chancellor, Dean, and about another 10 faculty from Saint Mary’s University at Convocation. It was a relatively rare occurrence for the program and the special moment was created through a two day celebration of the program’s 20th anniversary and the first in-person faculty retreat since 2019. The first day of the two-day event, kicked off quite appropriately at the Glitter Bean Café.
Today is a big day. Today, Louder Than Ten Industries Inc. hands over operations to Louder Than Ten Workers’ Cooperative. That means Abby, Rachel, and I are equal partners. It also means new employees have the opportunity to purchase a stake and join us as an equal partner. We know this might sound like a questionable decision to many of you—especially to owners and consultants in our industry. We’re here to tell you that aside from being a more equitable and moral way of doing business, it’s also more practical, sustainable, productive, and financially secure. We’re gonna tell you why.
Urban Animal, a Seattle-based veterinary network, has announced it will become the first worker cooperative veterinary practice in the US this fall. This will enable its 110 employees to share in the governance and profits of the company with more than 50,000 clients.1 Urban Animal joins about 30 worker cooperative-based businesses in Washington. By introducing the limited cooperative association (LCA), Urban Animal founder Cherri Trusheim, DVM, will gift a portion of the company to seed it, striving to become a completely employee-owned worker co-op over time. With the influx of veterinary corporatization, Trusheim aims to empower employees and ensure the practices stay locally owned and community minded while offering the best care.
In truth, our times don’t just require a new movement. They require a new type of movement, because the old movements and ideologies and organizations are not achieving what are needed. Too many of them are artifacts of an archaic, fading order of economics and political action. Think about it: It’s been more than three decades since we first learned that science had confirmed the reality of climate change. The 2008 financial meltdown – 15 years ago! -- revealed the arrogant power of global finance and capitalism – and yet the liberal state still has not significantly reformed those financial structures.
I am a cellist and worker-owner of a cooperative. As an ICDE fellow, I hop out of my usual action-oriented work to reflect on why cooperativism is an alternative to the status quo for freelancing musicians. As a professional cellist, I witnessed the infrastructural fractures that musicians in the United States have to navigate. In 2020, I returned to the U.S. from a year of studying in France, after contemplating during quarantine about the economics of working as an artist. One important question I wanted to solve: Rather than competing with my colleagues for limited paid gigs, how can I generate new opportunities and resources with them?
Co-op models have a marginal position in business education, the technology industry, and the popular imagination. In response, co-operators and their allies have created incubators, accelerator programs, and mutual-aid networks to support early-stage tech co-ops. Join us for an online panel facilitated by co-op researcher-practitioner Emi Do that brings together presenters from several such projects: CoTech, Exit to Community Collective, Platform Cooperativism Consortium, SPACE4, Start.coop, UnFound Accelerator, and Union Cooperative Initiative. These projects advance democratic business formation and co-op theory-building, and they offer valuable lessons on the promises and challenges of accelerating worker ownership today.
Taxi workers in the late 1960s and through the 1970s struggled against the transformation of their industry from regulated and unionized jobs to deregulated independent contracting work. This meant the loss of collective bargaining rights for taxi workers and a sharp rise in precarious working conditions as employers were able to shift business risk onto workers, cut expenses on benefits, and increase profits in-turn. In a spirited response, taxi workers self-organized and sustained union-like alt labor groups, for example the New York Taxi Workers Alliance in New York and United Taxicab Workers in San Francisco, that fought for better working conditions for taxi workers through municipal and city regulations.