Workplace Democracy

By John Teta Luhman, University of New England (Dept. of Business Administration)

What an incredible experience! To spend a weekend in New York City attending the first membership meeting of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, getting to know people from all around the country and the world while learning about the strength and vibrancy of the worker cooperative movement. As I reflected on my time at the conference, I kept returning to three questions that I heard again and again from participants.

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By Omar Freilla, for AlterNet

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By Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo

Credit: http://www.usworker.coopThe Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy (ECWD) took concrete steps toward coalition building with other workers and unions, inter-cooperation with other cooperatives, and forging alliances with political groups at its 4th biennial conference this summer. It was the first ECWD held in the South.

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By Jim Johnson, GEO Collective

I had such a great time at this year's conference in Asheville, NC. Too many workshops, I wanted to go to all of them! But it's impossible, of course; quality over quantity is the only way. Armed with my laptop, I vowed to take careful notes and make at least a couple of presentations back home that would help my comrades and I become better worker-owners. Of course, my motive also was to demonstrate that attending the 2009 conference would be a worthy investment of time and money.

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Pam McMichael, Highlander Research and Education Center

From a talk given at the 4th Biennial Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy, July 20, 2007 at the University of North Carolina in Asheville.

Thank you. It's an honor and pleasure to be with you this evening. It's always good when we gather to talk about democracy and democratic participation with people who really mean it.

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By Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone

We rarely inquire about a commodity's origins in wage labor. This is especially true of restaurant meals and resort vacations. Our enjoyment might be undercut were we confronted, for example, with the stifling heat and indignity borne at Disneyland by the person in the Mickey Mouse suit. The suit's fixed smile compels its wearer to endure tail-pulling by pre-teens lest the spell of "being with Mickey" is broken and a refund is demanded.

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By John W. Lawrence

At the National Conference of Democratic Workplaces, two workshops focused on the challenges of raising capital for worker cooperatives. The first workshop presented a series of case studies of innovative strategies for raising capital. In the second workshop "Building Community Wealth," lenders and foundations with a track record of investing in worker cooperatives described their mission.

By Len Krimerman, GEO Collective

I had expected the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) conference to be extraordinarily good, but it exceeded even that expectation. There was a wonderful mix of energies, ages, languages, cultures, regions, sectors, perspectives...that often found common ground; there were issues discussed that usually are kept off the table; there were ever so many signs of a movement matured, full of experience and promise, ready to take risks and take off.

By Melissa Hoover

Worker co-ops, community organizing, asset-building, economic development, environmental sustainability. These connections came up again and again at the recent national worker cooperative conference, a co-op conference that was exciting to me in part for the number of people attending who weren't --as yet--in co-ops.

By John W. Lawrence

The keynote speaker at the Second U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperative Conference was Rick Surpin. In 1985 Rick founded Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the first worker-owned home care cooperative in the United States. CHCA now employs over 1,000 home care workers in quality jobs. Virtually all of the worker-owners of CHCA are African American and Latina women.

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