Bret Keisling is joined by worker-owners Alex Fischer and Andrew Stachiw who discuss USFWC's (US Federation of Worker Cooperatives) efforts to network and grow worker co-ops in Vermont to further societal goals including economic, racial, and social justice, and working in business as anti-capitalists. Alex and Andrew share their individual and combined passions for democratized workplaces and their beliefs that changing the very structures of jobs, equity and community will transcend society. Each guest also shares their EO A-ha Moment. Further show notes, and all of our past episodes, are available on our website.
First it was the “Great Resignation.” Then it was “nobody wants to work anymore.” Now it’s “quiet quitting.” Yet it seems like no one wants to talk about what I see as the root cause of America’s economic malaise – work under contemporary capitalism is fundamentally flawed. As a political philosopher studying the effects of contemporary capitalism on the future of work, I believe that the inability to dictate and meaningfully control one’s own working life is the problem. Democratizing work is the solution. What can be said about the malaise surrounding work under capitalism today? There are at least four major problems: First, work can be alienating.
So, some quick things, and I'm going to go through some examples actually for everything on this list. Co-op workplaces: you can soft launch a co-op workplace as a pop up business while building community support. So you don't have to actually get a building together, you know, there are ways to do it. So you don't need to be renting a big expensive building downtown in the beginning. And many co-ops also use crowdfunding or even grants to get off the ground. And there's different kinds of funding available, so you can kind of think about, what your business model looks like and and how you might approach bringing in outside funds, if that's the route that you want to or need to take. And I should say, as you can see, pretty much most people under 40 at this point are going to need a level of financial help, and that's that's okay. That's just kind of part of where the economy is for our generation.
As economists and policymakers are seeking to explain the “Great Resignation” sweeping the labor market, the traditional wage and hour issues became less important to employees than in the recent past, according to a recent report. A big takeaway from the data is that organizing people as workers is not enough. Economic democracy in the twenty-first century cannot be achieved solely within a framework focused exclusively on worksites. Rather we must explore a more expansive definition of collective bargaining that adapts to the context of global capitalism and all its features, including addressing the material and cultural needs of the modern worker—who, shockingly, does not solely identify as a worker, but sees themselves as having a diverse array of identities.
I’ve spent the last two and half years learning and implementing participatory budgeting in New York City, first from within the New York City Council and now as a staff member of Participatory Budgeting Project. As members of Black Youth Project 100, I and my colleague Maria Hadden have presented on participatory budgeting as a policy for Black self-determination and liberation on various occasions and to varying audiences. Can you imagine my excitement when, on August 1st, The Movement for Black Lives released a robust policy agenda titled A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice — and included a bold solution for more community control through participatory budgeting? Contained in the policy agenda are some things we want to see get done.
More than 3,000 researchers from 600 universities around the world have issued an urgent call to heed the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis and rewrite the rules of our economic systems in order to create a more democratic and sustainable society. Their call – made in an op-ed published simultaneously in 33 leading media outlets around the world, including The Wire – in the midst of an unprecedented health, climate, and political crisis, paves a positive path forward following three core principles: democratize (firms), decommodify (work), and remediate (policies) in order to respect planetary boundaries and make life sustainable for all.
We need economic democracy. As workers, as consumers, and as citizens, Americans are increasingly powerless in today’s economy. A 40-year assault on antitrust and competition policy—the laws and regulations meant to guard against the concentration of power in private hands—has tipped the economy in favor of powerful corporations and their shareholders. Under the false assumption that the unencumbered ambitions of private business will align with the public good, the pro-monopoly policies of the “Chicago School” of antitrust lurk behind today’s troubling trends: high profits, low corporate investment, rising markups, low wages, declining entrepreneurship, and lack of access to unbiased information. Market power and lax competition policy ensure our economy serves the few over the many.
The only way to create this new story of possibility is through our action, and it’s happening. In this dark time, a vigorous and unprecedented democracy movement is emerging. Led by citizens of all backgrounds—inspiring our new book, Daring Democracy—it is uniting groups long focused on specific issues, from the environment to racial justice to labor, who are now joining forces with veteran democracy-reform groups to tackle big money’s grip on our elections and to ensure voting rights. Step by bold step, citizens joining in this never-more-needed movement are gaining confidence in their capacities to shape an accountable, inclusive democracy in which all voices are heard. Because the democracy movement holds the inherent dignity of all as a core value, this rising movement can be a key in freeing us from our blaming and shaming culture and moving us toward one in which we’re all responsible and thus able to experience the thrill of democracy.
By Bill Quigley. A federation of local cooperatives and mutual aid networks, Cooperation Jackson, has many concrete forms including an urban farming coop, a food coop, a cooperative credit union, a hardware coop, and a cooperative insurance plan. They plan to be an incubator for more coop startups, a school, a training center, a cooperative credit union, a bank, a community land trust, community financial institutions like credit unions, housing cooperative, childcare cooperative, solar and retrofitting cooperative, tool lending and resource libraries, community energy production. They are also working to build an organizing institute and a workers union. Cooperation Jackson is an economic movement, a human rights movement and a movement insistent on environmentally sustainable progress. They work for clean air and water, zero waste, and against toxic industries.
By Kate Aronoff for In These Times. The city of Jackson, in the heart of staunchly Republican Mississippi, might seem an unlikely place for a municipal revolution. Yet Jackson’s radicalism has been forged in the crucible of massive disinvestment, both by private industry and by a conservative state legislature. Led by the Black nationalist organization Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, organizers in Jackson have backed experiments in everything from worker-owned businesses to participatory, neighborhood-by-neighborhood democracy. A leader of this movement, Jackson Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, helped start people’s assemblies in the city, inviting residents to hash out the kinds of changes they want to see. He was elected mayor in 2013, only to pass away months later. In an effort to carry on his father’s legacy, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, 33, ran to succeed his father and lost. Now, with his second run, he hopes to continue the work his father began.
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.