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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Solidarity, PA

Showers and Vitale are among the civic leaders working with Mayor Vaughn Spencer to improve people’s lives, create living-wage jobs, and green the economy using a more democratic and localized style of economic development. They serve on the Mayor’s Sustainability Committee to mobilize those civic initiatives to rebuild Reading that supplement the official actions taken by the city administration. Their work started even before the mayor was elected in November 2011, when civic leaders met to plan how the city could avoid the draconian actions—such as selling off public assets like the city’s water authority and appointing private consultants to run the city—often taken by cities under Act 47. After Mayor Spencer took office in January 2012, their interest expanded to nurturing worker co-ops along with other “solidarity economy” approaches that are designed to create more democratic control of businesses, finance, and utilities. If these civic leaders succeed, one might be able to call Reading one of the new “solidarity cities” on the horizon.

Despite the impoverished state of their city, these activists believe they have enough local resources to realize their vision. At any rate, they feel they have no other choice since little help is coming from the state and federal government.

“Part of it is understanding that in a globalized economy we have to re-localize as much as possible to keep money circulating here,” says Eron Lloyd, the thirty-four-year-old special assistant for policy and sustainability who returned to Reading, his hometown, to join the effort. “The first step is understanding that the status quo does not work. We’ve done everything you can do from a conventional [economic development] standpoint. We had all these fancy financial instruments right before everything collapsed in the stock market and we lost our shirts.”

Read the full article at Dissent Magazine


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