Water is not, and has never been, a standalone issue. Over the past 20 or 30 years, in a context of increasing concern with access to water in terms of quality, particularly in the global south, there has been an extraordinary amount of activism around water: access, struggle, ownership, etc. What has that done to systematically change the configuration of access to water? Almost nothing. Clearly the highly triaged and uneven access and distribution of water is a major issue. It’s the number one cause of premature mortality in the world. Poor access to water is a concern that many activists share. Something has to be done. But the focus on the specificity of the issue is politically stifling.
In 1970, Janice Johnson, a Black single mother in Philadelphia, was facing eviction from an old apartment building condemned by the city. She was desperately seeking a place for her and her 8-year-old son to live, and her attempts to rent nearby apartments were coming up short.
For decades, low wage work and exploitive housing policies have reigned supreme in Baltimore. Today there are tremendous disparities in wealth and health outcomes and a lack of access to affordable housing, but a growing number of residents are fighting exploitation through collective ownership of food, labor, and land, showing that another world is possible. Worker owners and community leaders discussed these efforts at the 2019 East Coast Workplace Democracy Conference, which included tours of local worker run cooperatives, land trusts, and community gardens focused on community empowerment.
The Financial Times published an alarmist front-page story about Labour’s Inclusive Ownership Funds proposal over the weekend. The headline of the story is that “UK’s Labour would cost companies £300bn by shifting shares to staff.” The paper then goes on to quote some right-wingers saying that this will be devastating in various ways. But in reality, the proposal, if implemented, should be fine. Labour’s IOF proposal is pretty simple: every year, for the next 10 years, large British companies will be required to issue stock equal to one percent of their ownership to trusts established for each company.
Burlington, Vt - Vermont's largest affordable housing community marked a special milestone Saturday with a neighborhood-wide celebration. The Northgate Apartments in Burlington's New North End is celebrating 30 years of housing affordability and resident ownership. "We're celebrating 30 years of ownership, resident ownership," said Linda Romeo, a longtime resident. Romeo has lived at Northgate for the past 48 years. She raised her family there and can remember a time when conditions were poor.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion to raise the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent has reignited a long overdue debate about taxation. The idea that lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy is key to a healthy economy—known as “trickle-down economics”—has been the mainstream political consensus since the 1980s. By explaining that massively increasing taxes on the super-rich can help fund social programs like Medicare for All, tuition-free college, a jobs guarantee and a Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez has rightly disrupted the politics of austerity that has dominated both major political parties for decades.
For decades Marjorie Kelly has looked for ways that businesses can better contribute to the good of society. In 1987, after getting a master’s degree in journalism, she founded Business Ethics magazine to showcase socially responsible corporations. But after 20 years as president and publisher, she sold the magazine. She had come to an epiphany: Encouraging individual corporations to behave better was an insufficient route to improving society. Significant change would require a shift in the ownership structure of business. Kelly’s 2012 book, Owning Our Future, lays out ways to expand democratized ownership models, including employee ownership. Research shows that when employees own the company, they make higher wages.
Across the U.S.—from New England to California—a small but growing movement of farmers is foregoing traditional farm ownership in favor of a cooperative model. In Maine, four Somali Bantu refugees raise crops on shared land at New Roots Cooperative Farm, growing both regional and Somali produce. To the south in Vermont, Intervale Community Farm shares farm ownership with its community supported agriculture (CSA) members. Next door is Digger’s Mirth, a worker-owned farm. And across the country in Southern California’s Pauma Valley, Solidarity Farmshares work and resources with other stewards of the land.
“This home had belonged to a white family,” said Graves, a Black woman who previously lived one county east. “I fell in love with the house, even though I missed Alamance County.” It was the early 1980s, and white residents were leaving the vicinity en masse. Homeowners who couldn’t sell started renting their houses, she said, and within about five years, almost all of the white residents had fled. Graves—who held “a really good management job” at a telephone company—liked her new home. She lived near a branch library and a city rec center, and just one block from a Winn-Dixie grocery store. But the neighborhood started to decline, a trend Graves blames on a lack of public investment and renters who she said didn’t care as much about the community. At the end of 1998, Winn-Dixie announced it would close the store, and other tenants of the shopping center quickly followed.
By Staff of Democracy At Work Institute - “The collaborative came together in 2016 to respond to a moment of generational opportunity. In the next 15 years, hundreds of thousands of businesses employing millions of people will be sold, consolidated or closed as Baby Boomer business owners retire. Our goal is to ensure the safety of these community economic anchors and local jobs, and to catalyze a wave of business conversions to cooperative employee ownership, which has been proven to increase equity in our most vulnerable communities” says Democracy at Work Institute Executive Director Melissa Hoover. This report shows tangible outcomes of the worker cooperative model, including growing press coverage, interest from minority business support organizations, implementation by the economic development community, and policy support at federal, state, and regional levels. The data contained in this report includes the latest data available, with the majority of information through Q2 of 2017 and select information we have collected from Q3 2017. Throughout the report we see a coordinated, strategic effort that, even in its short life, has moved the dial on employee ownership conversions, raising awareness and enlisting partners. The report points toward a promising future, prompting a greater investment of time and resources paired with a close eye on trends and deeper analysis.
By Gar Alperovitz for Truth Out - On September 19, 1977 -- a day remembered locally as "Black Monday" -- the corporate owners of the Campbell Works in Youngstown, Ohio, abruptly shuttered the giant steel mill's doors. Instantly, 5,000 workers lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and their futures. The mill's closing was national news, one of the ﬁrst major blows in the era of deindustrialization, offshoring, and "free trade" that has since made mass layoffs commonplace. What was not commonplace was the response of the steelworkers and the local community. "You feel the whole area is doomed somehow," Donna Slaven, the wife of a laid-off worker, told reporters at the time. "If this can happen to us, there is not a secure union job in the country." Rather than leave the fate of their community in the hands of corporate executives in New York, New Orleans, and Washington DC, the workers began to organize and resist. And they joined with a new coalition of priests, ministers, and rabbis -- headed by a Catholic and an Episcopal bishop -- to build support for a new way forward. I was called in to head up an economic team to help. Working together, the steelworkers, the ecumenical coalition, and our team put forward a bold proposal to re-open the mill under worker–community ownership.
By Mary Ann Beyster for Democracy Collaborative - With income inequality in the United States at record high levels, employee ownership is increasingly being lauded as a potential solution to spreading wealth more broadly. Most recently, research from the National Center for Employee Ownership released in May shows that employee owners have a household net worth that is 92 percent higher than non-employee owners. They also make 33 percent higher wages, and are far less likely to be laid off. But employee ownership requires new investment in order to get to scale. A new report by Mary Ann Beyster, president and trustee of the Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED), published by the Fifty by Fifty initiative of The Democracy Collaborative, examines the investing landscape for potential opportunities in employee ownership. The report, Impact Investing and Employee Ownership, reports on the results from six months of research showing that the opportunities for impact investors to support employee ownership are limited, but that an investing infrastructure is beginning to emerge across asset classes.
By Anna-Catherine Brigida for PRI - After almost 20 years working at Buenos Aires restaurant Los Chanchitos, José Pereyra sensed an imminent bankruptcy. The quality of the food and service was deteriorating, and the owner hadn’t paid workers for weeks, he said. Given Argentina’s economic instability, he feared for his livelihood and that of his co-workers. So, Pereyra called a meeting of the 25 waiters, cooks and busboys. After hours of deliberation, they decided to run the business themselves as a worker cooperative. On April 25, 2013, they staged a coup against the restaurant owner before their jobs disappeared. “Now we work without an owner, and our destiny is ours,” Pereyra said one morning at the traditional Argentine restaurant.
By Marjorie Kelly for SSIR - It’s a sign of the times that the second-largest US foundation, the Ford Foundation, announced earlier this year that it was reorienting its entire portfolio of grants around a single goal: to disrupt the drivers of inequality. The topic of inequality is on everyone’s mind, including the Pope’s and Standard & Poor’s, which warned that, “income inequality in the US is dampening GDP growth.
Now that the first round of intellectual debris left in the wake of French economist Thomas Piketty’s explosive best-seller “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has begun to settle, it may be time to look more closely at the gaping hole it has left not only in political-economic analysis but also in conventional political strategy. After Piketty documented long-running trends that have turned over ever-increasing shares of national income to the owners of capital at the expense of the vast majority, the best solution he could muster was what he termed a utopian idea: a global tax on capital. Liberal economists, for their part, have largely rolled out the usual list of progressive tax reforms, often conveniently forgetting to confront the extraordinary political obstacles that stand in the way of any one policy remotely powerful enough to tackle the forces Piketty documents. What forces, you may ask? How about the fact that a mere 400 people at the top now own as much wealth — or capital, in Piketty’s inclusive formulation covering stocks, bonds, businesses, land and any other significant asset — as the bottom 180 million Americans. The best we have been offered in response to this medieval pattern is the vague hope that a cycle of history may one day bring progressive policy back in vogue. Or that demographic shifts may not only allow the election of Democrats but also award them sufficient power to effect trend-altering change rather than modest reforms that utterly fail to divert the steady and ongoing allocation of the nation’s income to those who own capital or work cheek by jowl for them.