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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

The Worker Cooperative Movement and Crises of Our Times

ALR: In the book, you write that you hope worker cooperatives can help address a number of crises of our times. Let’s start with the crisis of democracy. When people think about worker cooperatives, one of the first things they think about is that it should be run democratically by workers. How does it work in practice?

Emi: Anybody who has been involved in the conversion of a conventional business into a cooperative will know that one of the biggest obstacles is creating a culture of democracy because it’s so alien to the way we think about work. It’s very hard to shift gears from all of the patterns that we have that are based on inequality and hierarchy to a democratic way of functioning. Having that experience of running your organisation democratically is very powerful.

Matt: I see that in unions too. Workers who run a democratic union have a tremendous experience of what democracy can mean. If you think of cooperatives as an ecosystem, embedded in social movements and allied with other organisations, they are actively creating a democratic layer in society that influences the society around them.

One of our co-authors Marcelo Vieta writes about factories that have been taken over by workers. Those who work in those organisations are directly linked to political movements. They come out of democratic movements. Many people who are leaders in the cooperative movement in Korea came out of the democracy movement, including worker organisers, and they have become key players in the cooperative movement there. There’s a very direct kind of connection on both ends: cooperatives contributing to democratisation, and cooperatives as an expression of democratic movements.

Read the rest at Asian Labour Review


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