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Worker Cooperatives

Social Impact Worker Cooperatives Gain Adherents In Madison

A business model that allows workers to have a stake in how their employer pays and supports them while also tackling social justice issues is expanding in Madison and statewide. The worker cooperative model, which already has a history in Wisconsin and the city spanning decades, is one in which the business is equally owned and governed by its employees — they each get a say in their pay, benefits and how to divvy up company profits. In Madison, an accelerator for worker cooperatives that want to make that social impact was recently put together by Downtown startup promoter gener8tor and the Nehemiah Center for Leadership and Development. Also, a local worker cooperative called Roots4Change, which partners with health organizations to support Hispanic mothers through their pregnancies, is expanding.

How A Cincinnati Preschool Became Worker-Owned

Mt. Airy, Ohio - Katie McGoron founded Shine Nurture Center — a childcare and preschool in Mt. Airy, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati — in 2015. She envisioned a small, closely knit childcare center where kids would play outside and eat healthy food. That’s exactly what she built over the last seven years. But when she decided to go back to school and start a new phase of her life, she did something unexpected. Rather than sell her business to the highest bidder, she sold it to five of her workers, turning it into a worker cooperative. The transition process concluded last month when ownership was officially transferred from McGoron to Shine workers, thanks in large part to the help of Co-op Cincy.

Unions And Worker Co-Ops: Economic Justice Requires Collaboration

Unions and worker cooperatives have a lot in common when it comes to passions and principles for democratic workplaces. Where they differ is in strategy and tactics. At this moment in history, it is clear to many that much needs to be torn down and much needs to be built up. To face this challenge and change our economic system to achieve genuine workplace democracy requires new ways of doing business and a multi-pronged approach. To explore these issues in greater depth, the Community and Worker Ownership Project at the City University of New York (CUNY) published a report titled A Union Toolkit for Cooperative Solutions, which highlights seven case studies of how unions and worker co-ops have together built worker power.

Richard Wolff: US Capitalism Has Peaked And Is On The Way Down’

For the end of the year, Clearing the FOG speaks with economist Richard Wolff about the current state of United States capitalism. Wolff explains that the United States is experiencing the greatest crisis in its history - a severe economic crisis at the same time as a pandemic, as well as the climate crisis. This is unprecedented. Unlike the great depression in the last century, when the wealth divide shrank, inequality is worsening. On top of that, US empire is in decline. Wolff discusses the current state of inflation and supply chain disruption and the forces behind them. Instead of facing up to these realities and learning from the experiences of other countries, such as China, and even our own past, the ruling class is in denial and continues on the same path that created the current situation. Wolff talks about what we need to focus on going forward.

Take This Job And Love It

In the six years that Michael Ugwu has worked as an Uber driver in New York City, he’s seen a growing share of his earnings diverted into venture capitalists’ pockets. Uber and Lyft require workers to assume a myriad of expenses that can quickly trap drivers like Ugwu into debt and poverty. “Currently, they’re taking out between 35 to 40 percent, when you add up all the deductions,” Ugwu says. “You end up not having enough to pay rent, maintain the car, pay the car loan, and buy gas. They’re continuously ripping us off.” By 2017, rideshare drivers were earning less than half what they made just four years earlier, a study found. Meanwhile, executives at Lyft and Uber have raked in tens of millions of dollars in compensation.

Worker cooperatives prove your job doesn’t have to be hell

We speak with worker-owners at 8 co-ops in 4 states about the unique benefits, struggles, and limitations of of the worker cooperative model. In the words of Kimberly Britt, a worker-owner at ChiFresh Kitchen, “We work at and own this company, and we designed it to work for us, what would make it not feel like a job.”

How To Turn Your Non-Profit Into A Worker Co-op

If people who want to start a worker-owned cooperative are currently working for a government agency — like we were working for a nonprofit that was contracting with a government agency — but even if you are working directly with a government agency and they're going to outsource your jobs to another company, you have the best expertise that anyone could have for doing your job. And if you form a worker cooperative and put in your own bid, there's nothing to stop you from doing that. And your bid will probably be the most attractive because you know the best of how much things cost, and what to expect in the way of expenses. And you can also address how the work will be done better than anyone else could. And so your chances for keeping your jobs that way are, I think, really good, as as we were able to do. And so I think what we did could be a model for any government employees where they're going to get laid off, and the job is going to be outsourced. All government agencies have to put bids out for proposals.

Pandemic Crash Shows Worker Co-ops More Resilient Than Traditional Business

While we have no way to know yet the full extent of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, by all accounts it could be as bad — if not far worse — than the 2008 crash. In fact, in terms of unemployment alone, the numbers are already staggering: more than 33 million jobs have been lost so far in the U.S. during the coronavirus shutdowns, compared to the roughly 8.6 million lost in the Great Recession. Following that crisis, many working people turned to the worker cooperative model as a way to build economic resiliency and stability for themselves. In the decade after 2008, the number of worker-owned cooperatives in the United States nearly doubled, increasing from 350 to 600. I know, because I am a member of one of those cooperatives that formed: The TESA Collective, which creates tools and games for social change.

Major Advances In 2019 Toward A More Democratic Economy

This past year, state and municipal lawmakers teamed up with community organizations to fight for—and win—a wide variety of policies and initiatives that will help foster a more democratic economy. New measures supporting public banking, worker co-ops, and community land trusts were launched across the country, continuing to grow a robust, cooperative economic ecosystem that builds community wealth. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the most exciting changes in local and state policy that happened in 2019. Public banks, unlike their private counterparts beholden to the profit demands of Wall Street shareholders, are owned by and accountable to the public. This year saw some important victories in the movement for these democratic financial institutions.

Economic Development Department Directed To Create A Worker Co-op Pilot Program

The Austin Cooperative Business Association announces a big win for cooperatives in Central Texas, as the Austin City Council passes an express directive to the Economic Development Department to pilot a worker cooperative development program in fiscal year 2020.  This program will create outreach and education materials, and provide direct technical assistance to groups seeking to form worker owned businesses as well as cooperative conversions, in which an existing business is sold to its workers.

Linking Popular Movements And Unions Is A Winning Strategy For Workers

After years of declining power and stagnant wages, workers in the United States are awakening, striking and demanding more rights.  A Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows the number of striking workers is the highest since 1986. In 2018, 485,000 people went on strike, a number not exceeded since the 533,000 people in 1986, and 2019 will be even larger. Workers should be in revolt, as the Economic Policy Institute found workers have had stagnant wages for three and a half decades even though productivity is increasing.  This week we look at the origin of Labor Day, how workers are returning to those roots and the future for workers in the United States. This is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, which was declared in 1894 after the nationwide Pullman railroad strike led by the American Railway Union under Eugene Debs when 260,000 workers in 27 states participated.

Economic Update: Socialism And Worker Co-ops

20th century socialism is now behind us. Socialists continued to evaluate both its achievements and failures via extensive self-criticism. A changed socialism has emerged, focused on a transition of workplaces from top-down hierarchical capitalist structures into democratic worker cooperatives. The powerful appeal of worker co-ops as grounding a new 21st century socialism is presented by Professor Wolff in this latest episode of Economic Update.

Marx And The Democratization Of Work

Marx himself said and wrote little about the future beyond capitalism. He didn’t believe in future-gazing; no one could know how the world would evolve. Marx gave us some ideas of what might have to happen if we were going to get beyond capitalism. But he offered no blueprints or road maps. Later Marxists did not always share these hesitations, especially after Marxists came to play leading roles in what they called “socialist” societies. Marx never suggested, contrary to what so many have said, that the state — the government — had to play some sort of ongoing, central role in what this future post-capitalist world would look like.

General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers

General Motors’ November 26th announcement that it will be eliminating more than 14,000 jobs and closing seven factories worldwide by the end of next year, including four factories in the U.S. and one in Canada is an opportunity. These facilities should be condemned by government authority and turned over to the workers whose labor created the wealth and profits that General Motors’ shareholders enjoy. They could then, with government assistance, be retooled and placed under the ownership and control of their workers, organized into democratic cooperatives for that purpose.

Why The U.S. Needs More Worker-Owned Companies

The gap in wealth in the United States between the ultrawealthy and everyone else has reached its widest point in decades. One way to narrow the divide is through the use of worker buyouts, in which ownership of a company transfers from a single person or a small number of people to the workers of the company. Currently, about 10% of Americans hold equity stakes in their workplaces. By providing more workers and employees with opportunities to buy shares, companies can help workers and communities raise their standard of living and simultaneously feel more invested — literally — in the success of the enterprise. In that way, worker buyouts also increase firms’ competitiveness: Research suggests that employee-owned companies are more durable and resilient during economic downturns.
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