Workplace Democracy

Green economics and racial justice
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By Len Krimerman

In 1995, the International Cooperative Alliance adopted seven cooperative principles to define and guide cooperatives throughout the world. Briefly stated, the "traditional seven" include: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; member economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.

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By Lisa Stolarski

Both Hands in the Soil

There is an ethical imperative to shift the balance of economic power away from corporate Capitalism and toward economies that benefit us all. Beginning with this assumption, I will explain how it is possible for unions and worker cooperatives to collaborate strategically to take market share away from absentee-owned and wage labor capitalist enterprises and place control of resources and production in the hands of communities of working people.

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As labor organizers, we struggle in the field every day to improve the lives of workers; we are in search of tools and alternatives for working people that will meet the needs of today's casualized and insecure workforce, with shrinking or negligible benefits. It is in the spirit of innovative leadership that we propose that the labor movement use worker cooperatives, an alternative organizing strategy added to more traditional labor organizing methods, as a means of returning control of their lives to the American working people.
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While empathizing with those who feel a sense of "inevitability" in the face of today's powerful capitalist economy (and disagreeing with those who see it as generally acceptable), I hold firmly to the perspective that a more just and democratic economy is both necessary and possible. And I believe that the greatest chance of increasing and assuring viability for the workplace democracy movement may rest in our ability to keep our "eyes on the prize"; that is, on the long term replacement of capitalism?an economy which socializes costs and privatizes benefits?with an economy of democratic cooperation?in which costs and benefits are democratically and equitably shared throughout society.
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By Mario Osava, www.ipsnews.net
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By John Zippert, Federation of Souther Cooperatives

From August 16-18, 2007, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund will celebrate its fortieth (40th) anniversary and Annual Meeting. Growing from 22 cooperatives and credit unions organized by SNCC, CORE, SCLC and other civil rights organizations in the South in the 1960's, the Federation has worked with thousands of Black farmers and other low income rural folks over the past four decades.

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Interview by Jessica Gordon Nembhard

Shakoor Aljuwani is an organizer with the Home Coming Center in New Orleans. GEO Newsletter's Jessica Gordon Nembhard interviewed him in April 2007 about his work and progress with helping low-income residents return to New Orleans and rebuild their homes and neighborhoods.

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By Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis

On March 19, 2003, we were on the roof of the Zanon ceramic tile factory, filming an interview with Cepillo. He was showing us how the workers fended off eviction by armed police, defending their democratic workplace with slingshots and the little ceramic balls normally used to pound the Patagonian clay into raw material for tiles. His aim was impressive. It was the day the bombs started falling on Baghdad.

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By Mary Hoyer, ECWD Lead Organizer

For the first time since its inception in 2002, the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy (ECWD) will be held in the South. The 2007 regional conference will be co-hosted by the Federation of Southern Co-ops/Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF) and the Southern Appalachian Center for Cooperative Ownership (SACCO).

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By Robin Hahnel

Worker-owned cooperatives are wonderful alternatives to privately owned, capitalist firms. Workers can decide what they want to produce and how they want to produce it instead of having all that decided by their employers. In other words, workers can take control of their laboring capacities and use them as they see fit. Moreover, whatever benefits come from their efforts belong to them, not to an absentee owner who did none of the work.

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By Maria Trigona

Inside the BAUEN Hotel, one of Argentina's worker-run workplaces, janitors, repairmen, receptionists and maids sit in an assembly with worried but determined faces and sheets of paper in hand. Each of the workers, some of whom have been working at the hotel since it was built in 1978, hold a court ordered eviction notice, a judicial document notifying the workers they must abandon the hotel or police will force them to leave.

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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.

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