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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Reflecting on the Movement: Kirk Vartan

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GEO Original
July 10, 2024
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[Editor's note: We'll be sharing responses to our survey asking cooperators to reflect on the last 20 years of worker cooperative development. If you'd like to share your thoughts, you can complete the survey here.]

When did you first become involved with the worker cooperative movement?

What were your hopes for the worker cooperative movement at the time that you first became involved?
Not much. Wanted to make sure our team have the best opportunity going forward.

In what ways have those hopes been realized? In what ways haven't they been?
We have realized this and have gotten to influence worker cooperative action at the local (city), state, and federal level with action and legislation.

What has your experience been with national and regional worker co-op organizations? In what ways have they been beneficial for worker co-ops?
The local group (NoBAWC) has been great. We don't utilize them as much as we could because most of their energy is up in the north bay, but we engage regularly. And they have stepped up in the state-level actions. Nationally, I have had mixed results. Some have been great with USFWC in terms of engagement and action, but others have not aligned with my goals of looking at structural changes to how co-op are transitioned. NCBA has also been a mixed bag, with less support than I would expect from a national group.

What would you like to see national and regional worker co-op organizations do going forward? Where do you think their focus should be?
There should be a concerted effort to drive worker coop parity to ESOPs in terms of tax and federal benefits. This is a huge problem from coops as they do not have the tools to complete.

I think all groups should be driving awareness and adoption. I also think there should be a path to exploring the disruption of the current methods for converting to a co-op, reducing time and cost as well as increasing scale.

Additional Notes
Making things simple and easy to understand is key. Also, I believe proposing solutions that speak to the needs of existing owners is more important than touting the social justice and employee benefits of the conversions. I say this because if the owners don't want to go through the process or sees it takes too ling, they won't do it. And then all the great things we love to talk about with converting to a coop are irrelevant.



(2024).  Reflecting on the Movement: Kirk Vartan.  Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO).

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