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Economic Democracy

Growing Worker Co-ops In Vermont

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.

The Case For Democratic Worker Control

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.

Catalyzing Worker Co-ops And The Solidarity Economy

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.

The Future We Need: Economic Democracy

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.

A Common Platform: Reimagining Data And Platforms

On October 20, 2020, the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust action against Google, the first step in what might be one of the biggest anti-monopoly cases of this century. With Google controlling more than an 87% share of the U.S. search market and its parent company, Alphabet, now one of the largest and most valuable companies in history, the move is likely long overdue. Yet Google/Alphabet is not alone. Just weeks later, the European Commission formally accused Amazon of breaking EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in online retail markets. At this point, it is relatively uncontroversial to point out that “Big Tech” giants like Google and Amazon increasingly dominate our economies and wield tremendous influence over our culture, social interactions, and political systems.

Black Power Through Participatory Budgeting

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.

Life After COVID-19: Decommodify Work, Democratize The Workplace

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.

The Decade Of Transformation Is Here: Remaking The Economy For The People

The pandemic, economic collapse and the government's response to them are going to not only determine the 2020 election but define the future for this decade and beyond. People are seeing the failure of the US healthcare nonsystem and the economy. The government was able to provide trillions for big business and Wall Street without asking the usual, "Where will we get the money?" However, the rescue bill recently passed by Congress provides a fraction of what most people need to get through this period. Once again, a pandemic will reshape the course of history. Last week, we wrote about the failings of the healthcare system and the need for a universal, publicly-funded system. This week, we focus on the need to change the US economic system.

Best Satire Of The Unjust Absurdity Of Wage Slavery?

One century, one decade, and a year ago — that's going back 111 years, to 1907 — a lovely little gem of a playful yet brilliantly provocative rabble-rousing pamphlet was published about economic exploitation. It focused more specifically on what's come to be called wage slavery, the economic dynamic whereby in order to have a roof over our heads and not to starve, we're compelled to allow certain people and artificial legal creations (employers and corporation) to not so much outright own us (that's illegal) as to "rent" us, so we're essentially temporarily owned via wage slavery.

Economic Democracy: Remaking The Economy Into ‘Our’ Economy

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.

A Powerful Economic Justice Movement Is Brewing

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.

Newsletter – From Neoliberal Injustice To Economic Democracy

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. This week, we will focus on positive work that people are doing to change current systems in ways that reduce the wealth divide, meet basic needs, build peace and sustainability and provide greater control over our lives. The work to transform society involves two parallel paths: resisting harmful systems and institutions and creating new systems and institutions to replace them. Throughout US history, resistance movements have coincided with the growth of economic democracy alternatives such as worker cooperatives, mutual aid and credit unions.

Blueprint For The Most Radical City On The Planet

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.

The Left Radical Who Will Likely Be Jackson, Mississippi’s Next Mayor

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.

How To Form A Global Counter-Economy

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.
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