Worker-Owned Cooperatives & The Cooperative Movement
Any workplace can undergo a profound change in meaning if it shifts from being primarily a mechanism for the generation of profit over which one has no control, to being a community of relationships with an inherent worth of its own. This is perhaps the quintessential difference between the co-operative and the capitalist firm. In one, the enterprise is a means to the human fulfillment of all through the creation of community. In the other, the enterprise is a means for the fulfillment of some through the subordination of others. It is strange how such a simple and self-evident truth seems so foreign in our culture.
When: Saturday, January 19, 2013 Time: 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Where: Metanoia Peace Community (Peace House) - 2116 Northeast 18th Avenue, Portland, OR 97212 - (Just off of NE Tillamook.) (map) Topic: Worker-Owned Cooperatives & The Cooperative Movement Don't Forget: This is a potluck event. Bring food!
Our fifth in a series of discussions about how people locally and around the world are fighting elite-imposed austerity and building political and economic democracy from the grassroots.
Our goals are to educate ourselves, strengthen our relationships, and develop a shared analysis of austerity and strategies to fight back against economic tyranny.
Our focus was on how Worker-Owned Cooperatives are building alternatives to workplace tyranny by constructing democratically controlled economic enterprises.
A Review of Five Books with Radical Critiques and New Ideas
“Manufactured austerity is a two-edged sword as far as coops are concerned. One edge is that there is little help coming from government which makes new ventures very tough. The other edge is that the solidarity economy, of which MCC is a mother lode of ideas and experience, emerges precisely when government fails and people have only each other to turn to for mutual aid. The harsh conditions become a spur to radical experiments and strategies for structural change.”
The Collective Agency resulted from the transition of a privately owned business into a worker-owned and managed cooperative. What practical lessons, if any, can discussion participants use to transition their work places into worker-owned cooperatives?
A cooperative collectively owned and democratically managed by its workers requires significantly more democratic participation from each worker than is typically required, encouraged or even allowed in standard capitalist firms. What are some of the likely benefits such "democratically enhanced" workers might contribute to their communities outside the workplace?
Suggested Reading, Video, Audio
Think of an article, book, report or video you'd like to suggest? Post a link to it here or on our Facebook page.
Values at Work is an analysis of organizational dynamics with wide-ranging implications in an age of market globalization. It looks at the challenges businesses face to maintain people-oriented work systems while remaining successful in the larger economy. George Cheney revisits the famous Mondragón worker-owned-and-governed cooperatives in the Basque Country of Spain to examine how that collection of innovative and democratic businesses is responding to the broad trend of "marketization." The Mondragón cooperatives are changing in important ways as a direct result of both external pressures to be more competitive and the rise of consumerism, as well as through the modification of internal policies toward greater efficiency. One of the most remarkable aspects of the changes is that some of the same business slogans now heard around the globe are being adopted in this set of organizations renowned for its strongly held internal values, such as participatory democracy, solidarity, and equality. Instead of emphasizing the special or unique qualities of the Mondragón experience, this book demonstrates the case's relevance to trends in all sectors and across the industrialized world.
Humanizing the Economy shows how co-operative models for economic and social development can create a more equitable, just, and humane future. With over 800 million members in 85 countries and a long history linking economics to social values, the co-operative movement is the most powerful grassroots movement in the world. Its future as an alternative to corporate capitalism is explored through a wide range of real-world examples.
“Imagine a country where the majority of the population reaps the majority of the benefits for their hard work, creative ingenuity, and collaborative efforts. Imagine a country where corporate losses aren't socialized, while gains are captured by an exclusive minority. Imagine a country run as a democracy, from the bottom up, not a plutocracy from the top down. Richard Wolff not only imagines it, but in his compelling, captivating and stunningly reasoned new book, Democracy at Work, he details how we get there from here - and why we absolutely must.”
- Nomi Prins, Author of It Takes a Pillage and Black Tuesday
The Worker-Owned Cooperatives page on this wiki contains a number of useful resources about what worker-owned cooperatives are, how they work, where they are currently operating and more.
Study Group Event: Student & Teacher Strikes, Update
Facebook Invite Page:Anti-Austerity Study Group Session #4 When: Saturday, November 17, 2012 Time: 11:00am Where:New Meeting Place: Sally & Bernie's House - 34th Ave. & SE Clinton. Address: 2715 SE 34th Ave. Just south of Clinton, first house on right. (map) | TriMet #4 Topic: Student & Teacher Strikes, Update Don't Forget: This is a potluck event. Bring food!
Imagine if the US Congress agreed to make higher education tuition-free and funded it by increasing taxes on corporations. Pure fantasy, right? Well the government of Chilé is doing just that. Chilé’s new direction wasn’t conceived by politicians in government offices. It started with students in the streets. Demonstrations began in 2006 during the Penguin Revolution, so named because of the black and white uniforms worn by students declaring that “education is a human right.” Students achieved minor tangible victories, but their ultimate goal of free education remained elusive.
The ABA is waging a quiet war on students by actively combating virtually any legislation that would ease their debt burden. With regards to being able to get rid of student loans in bankruptcy, the ABA stated in 2012 that, if allowed to go into effect, it “would tempt students to rack up big debt that they won’t repay [and that] ‘The bankruptcy system would be opened to abuse.” This is rather ironic, accusing that students will engage in irresponsible lending and borrowing habits, when considering the banks themselves engaged in massive amounts of the exact same activity by giving mortgage loans to people they knew couldn’t repay the amount.
This energetic documentary by Franklin Lopez recounts the story of the spectacular student movement that rocked the streets of Montreal in early 2012.
Study Group Event: Anti-Austerity Pushback & Policy Responses During The Great Depression
Facebook Invite Page:Anti-Austerity Study Group Round 3 When: Saturday, September 15, 2012 Time: 11:00am Where:New Meeting Place: Michael Wade's House - 2225 SE Lincoln Street (map) | TriMet #4, #14 Topic: Anti-Austerity Pushback & Policy Responses During The Great Depression Don't Forget: This is a potluck event. Bring food!
The third in a series of discussions about how people locally and around the world are resisting austerity and building strong coalitions to protect public services, education, and the safety net. Our goals are to educate ourselves, strengthen our relationships, and develop a shared analysis of austerity and a shared orientation to strategies that work.
Our third meetup topic is on unpacking the Great Depression. Discussion topics:
Timeline of events, organizing, and victories.
Economic context of pre-depression and early depression years.
Role of the left in building the massive movements that fought for the 99%.
We started out with a potluck brunch and spend time getting to know each other. We devoted some discussion in the large group and then broke into small groups for more in-depth conversations using the discussion questions provided as a starting point.
The year 1934 marked a turning point for the working-class struggle during the Great Depression, with three strikes in three cities--Toledo, San Francisco and Minneapolis--that showed workers could fight back and win.
By drawing attention to the systematic violation of human rights, the indignados have helped to shine a light on the illegitimacy of the financial structure.
Enough statistics. Look at people, look them in the eyes. If the government can’t look its own people in the eyes, if it always imposes austerity on the poor, then it’s illegitimate and should step down. It presented itself to elections with a program, and it’s imposing exactly the opposite.
Tens of thousands of angry Spaniards protested in 80 cities throughout Spain against the government's latest austerity package, blaming officials for "ruining" the country.
This film tells a story of the massive mobilization that saw millions of people converge on Madrid on March 22nd 2014, the story of the proliferation of social centers, community gardens, self-organized food banks, and the story of large-scale housing occupations by and for families that have been evicted.
The 15-M movement seems to be at an impasse, unsure of how to make use of its multiple victories and enormous public support. To break out of this situation, numerous organizations, assemblies and collectives are repeatedly appealing to the ideal of unity (amongst the political left, the movement, the “bottom 99”) as a means of reaching the necessary levels of coordination needed for standing up to, and defeating, the government and markets. However, so far it doesn’t seem like their ideals-inspired efforts have led to any noticeable improvement in the organisational capacity of the movement. Prior to the birth of 15M, it was not uncommon to see initiatives by the political left coalescing around ideals of convergence, coordination and unity, with generally poor results. Our hypothesis is that these traditional modes of political organisation have grave shortcomings, needing urgent revision. What can we do when the old ways aren’t working anymore? Do we forfeit our experience? Go our separate ways? Surrender to the idea that revolution can only be chaotic and spontaneous?
This struggle is not about being granted rights by government; it is an uprising in which people determine and exercise their rights for themselves.
The indignados are attempting to create their own communal spaces under the principles of solidarity and self-organization. They are experimenting with new ways of ensuring human rights as part of a larger political struggle. They have unleashed a radical imagination with the aim of liberating the collective consciousness of every sector of society to challenge the current structure of power, and replace it with civilized, horizontal, and self-determined alternatives.
A Spanish mayor who became a cult hero for staging robberies at supermarkets and giving stolen groceries to the poor sets off this week on a three-week march that could embarrass the government and energise anti-austerity campaigners.
Citizens, 15M/Indignados assemblies and various social networks and organizations around the country are building the Citizen Debt Audit Platform to demonstrate the illegitimacy of debt, identify those responsible of the crisis and demand not to pay an illegitimate debt.
This article is part of a Huffington Post series on the global impact of austerity -- "A Thousand Cuts" -- from affordable housing funds lost in San Francisco to increasing class sizes in New York, food inspector cuts in Canada, disability benefits taken away in the United Kingdom, decimation of France's solar industry, and more.
As the Spanish government got its €65bn austerity package passed in Parliament, millions of people took to the streets in unprecedented demonstrations against cuts on July 19. The day after, as the Valencian regional government asked for a central government bail out (of 3.5bn euro), the risk premium on Spanish bonds hit a new record, while 10 year bonds were yielding 7.3%. The Spanish economy is on the verge of a full bail out.
A SWEEPING $80 billion austerity program pushed by Spain's right-wing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been met by a new surge of workers' resistance, with miners leading the way and public-sector workers joining the battle with street blockades in the capital city of Madrid.
"This rejection of representative democracy has to be understood as part of a growing popular skepticism that raises some of the most fundamental questions about the future of society. People everywhere are starting to share and propagate the idea that democracy is not about voting or about elections, but about ‘the people’ having real power over the decisions that determine whether they will have a place to live, the ability to feed their families, or a basic education. More importantly, this shift in meaning is being backed up with large-scale decentralized general assemblies that are building the inclusive structures necessary to enact these new forms of democracy."
Spain's government imposed more austerity measures on the beleaguered country Wednesday as it unveiled sales tax hikes and spending cuts aimed at shaving (EURO)65 billion ($79.85 billion) off the state budget over the next two and a half years.
Workers in Spain have been mobilizing for a series of protests since the right-wing government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the People's Party announced a Greek-style austerity program of cuts in social spending that targets workers and the poor. These policies are the result of an agreement, known as the "Memorandum," that the Spanish government signed with the European Union, which, along with the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, is known as the troika.
This documentary examines the rise of the 15M movement, a year later from six people who lived in the Barcelona occupation of Catalonia Square. They meet again to discuss the beginning of the movement, what happened to the country this year and what role should the movement play in the future.
After an 18 day march from Asturias to Madrid, miners confront riot police on the streets of Madrid when the Minister of Industry refuses to meet with them. Fighting to save there communities from destruction, the miners have nothing to lose.
From May 12-May 15th, protesters throughout Spain marked the first anniversary of the 15M movement by re-taking the streets and squares of over 80 cities. The 15M movement inspired people all over the world to occupy their local squares, to self-organize general assemblies and to build networks of solidarity in the face of severe economic policy. This short documentary documents the 15M anniversary protests in Barcelona.
On March 29, 2012, millions of people across Spain went on strike. The strike, which was the first general strike since September 2010, brought the country to a near halt. The situation in Spain has grown increasingly difficult with 1 in 4 people out of work and many struggling to make rent or mortgage payments. This short film is about what happened in Barcelona on that day.
In the midst of rising unemployment rates, extensive austerity measures and increased privatization, many Spanish people are losing faith in electoral politics.
Study Group Event: Student & Teacher Strikes
Facebook Invite Page:People's Budget Movement Building Study Group When: Saturday, July 14, 2012 Time: 10:00am Where: 214 NE Thompson Street (map) Topic: We'll be reading 3 pieces about 3 different communities in struggle: students in Quebec, teachers in Chicago, and youth in Chile. We will start out with a potluck brunch and spend time getting to know each other. We'll have some discussion in the large group and then break into small groups for more in-depth conversations using the discussion questions provided as a starting point.
What makes this particular movement / uprising powerful?
Who is involved (students, workers, disenfranchised, etc.)?
How do they confront power?
How does this movement connect to the broader social ills / issues (beyond single issue)?
How does this movement compare / contrast with ours?
Since they are producers of knowledge, students are no longer a workforce in apprenticeship, but are immediately workers, and precarious workers. In fact, there is a continuous overlapping between the education market and the labor market (think of “lifelong learning” or the accreditation system). It’s not by coincidence that the issues of labor (precariousness, devaluation of the workforce, impoverishment, crisis, etc.) have been central in student and university struggles in the past few years. And for this reason, the university struggles have a potentiality of political generalization across the whole class composition.
Clanging pots and pans are sounding across the streets of Montreal as hundreds of thousands of Quebecers take part in what is being termed the "Maple Spring" - Canada's largest and longest protests ever. It all started three months ago when the provincial government announced an 75 percent increase on university tuitions.
What started as a students-only protest is spilling over into a much broader debate about inequality and, ultimately, the future that peoples' leaders appear to be offering. But this is also part of a larger trend. It's amazing how quickly these regional and specific discussions -- police brutality in Tunisia, income inequality in the U.S., college tuition in Quebec - spill over into some of the same themes we see globally. A government, possessing economic and military authority, makes a move that finally angers people enough to send them into the streets.
Talk to any of the 38 million Americans who have outstanding student-loan debt, and he or she is likely to tell you a story about how a single moment in a financial-aid office at the age of 18 or 19 -- an age when most people can barely do a load of laundry without help -- ended up ruining his or her life.
"We have to get way out of the box if we're going to get serious about getting young people into college and out of college without burdening them with a lifetime of debt," said Mark Hass, a Democratic state senator from Beaverton, Ore., who leads the chamber's education committee and who championed the bill. The legislation was supported by the Working Families Party.
Debt is the tie that binds the 99 percent. From the underwater and foreclosed-upon homeowners who were first pummeled by the economic crisis, to the millions of debt-strapped students who are in default or on the brink, to all those driven into bankruptcy by medical bills, to workers everywhere who have been forced to compensate for more than thirty years of stagnating wages with credit card debt, to the firefighters and teachers who have had to accept pay cuts because their cities are broke, to the citizens of countries where schools and hospitals are being closed to pay back foreign bondholders. Given the way debt operates at the municipal and national levels, the issue affects us all—even those who are fortunate enough to be debt-free, as well as those so poor they don’t have access to credit. Debt is one of the ways we all feel Wall Street’s influence most intimately, whether it’s because of a ballooning mortgage payment or a subway fare hike or a shuttered clinic.
General Articles & News Reports on the Current Student / Education Crisis
From report: While they started for different reasons, Mexico's Yo Soy 132 is similar in many ways to a number of other emerging student movements, from Santiago, Chile, to Berkeley, California, to Montreal, Canada, where students have attempted to capitalize upon growing discontent with the political process, reaching out to people strangled by debt and confronting the process of privatization and austerity.
The Student Uprisings panel at the CUNY Graduate Center on October 15 represented a continuation of cross-cultural exchanges of knowledge of social movement building in the spirit of the World Social Forum. To the excitement of New York City activists, students and educators, the event focused on how students can shape, lead and participate in social movements that advocate for democratic and accessible education for all.
The financial aid award letters that colleges send to prospective students can be confusing: Many mix grants, scholarships and loans all under the heading of "Award," "Financial Assistance," or "Offered Financial Aid." Some schools also suggest loans in amounts that families can't afford.
Role, Assumptions, Content, Outreach, Next Steps
Draw in leaders and rank and filers; be inclusive.
Help us all think through strategies, collectively.
2. Assumptions we are making about “change,” and about what it takes to build social movements.
Change and “sudden leaps of consciousness” often happen based on an event; we need to help lay the groundwork, “prepare the soil” in the meantime.
Wisconsin marked a shift in consciousness, that led to concrete political action.
A key part of preparation is to present an alternative model.
People are often duped into the theme of “There is NO alternative.” While they feel discontented, they aren’t sure how to proceed. They will join our fight when they see an alternative.
Effective systemic analysis is central to preventing infighting.
No action is radical unless it confronts power.
At some point, a movement has to set up alternative structures.
For July 14 (initial session) and beyond, we should focus on the movement building since 2008.
Wisconsin-- what worked, what didn’t, why, what can we learn?
Measures 66 & 67—what worked, what didn’t, why…etc.
Occupy Wall Street / Occupy Portland—what worked, what didn’t…etc.
Greece anti-austerity—what works…etc.
Spain / Madrid
Chile’s student movement / occupations
Chicago teacher’s strike
Montreal student strike
Possible questions we might discuss with each topic:
Why did this movement emerge when it did?
Why was / is this movement powerful?
What groups are involved? (on both sides)?
How did this movement confront power?
How does this movement connect to broader social ills?
How can we apply insights from this movement to our current organizing?
“Each one reach one.” We will each do direct recruiting of someone.
Recommendations: Richard Wolf’s “Occupy the Economy.”
6. Next steps:
Luis will send suggestions for articles on Chicago.
Megan will send suggestions on articles about Chile.
Dave will send suggestions about Montreal.
Trudy will create a draft worksheet for the July 14 discussion group.
Student loan debt is a looming disaster that concerns all of us. As a trend that continues to fuel the creation of a generation of indentured servants, the growing debt will follow us as long as we live, or only as long as we let it.