Category Archives: CWOP

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New Labor Forum: April 15th, 2019

The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below. 

The gaping income and wealth inequality, increasing constrictions on democratic rights, and perilous ecological unsustainability that are the features of the contemporary U.S. political economy have given rise to a host of theoretical and practical efforts to imagine another way. These efforts were the focus of an important national conference “Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change” held on April 12th at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, publisher of New Labor Forum. How can we transform our economy into a more just and ecologically sustainable system? What current practices and historic precedents offer lessons toward the creation of a participatory democracy? This newsletter provides a video clip of a rousing speech by conference keynote, J. Phillip Thompson, NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. In his remarks, Thompson discusses the legacy of organized labor’s tragic failure to build a multi-racial working-class movement for economic democracy. On this theme, we also include a New Labor Forumarticle by Brandon Terry and Jason Lee, who examine current tendencies among the leadership of black social justice organizations and unions that hinder the possibility for this sort of broader movement. We end with a poem by Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Gregory Pardlo, who writes with poignant grace of his childhood as the son of an African American union leader in the cataclysmic PATCO strike of 1981.

Table of Contents

  1. The Origins and Relevance of the Struggle for Economic Democracy in the U.S./ J. Phillip Thompson, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
  2. Rethinking the Problem of Alliance: Organized Labor and Black Political Life/ Brandon M. Terry and Jason Lee, New Labor Forum
  3. Winter After the Strike/ Gregory Pardlo, Digest

Photo by Neil Hinchley via flickr (cc-nc-nd)

Event: OUR ECONOMY! Economic Democracy and System Change (4/12)

Fri, April 12, 2019
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM EDT
25 W 43rd Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10036

Can the economy be democratized? How can we transform it into a more socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable system? How can we combat the growing concentrations of power and wealth? What current practices point toward a participatory democracy and resilient next system?

Our current political economy is unjust, anti-democratic, and ecologically unsustainable. This reality has led to a host of efforts to transform our political economy. This conference will bring together leading academics, researchers, advocates, and practitioners for a day of discussion on how we can achieve systemic transformation and make a political economy that is equitable, democratic, and sustainable. Continue reading Event: OUR ECONOMY! Economic Democracy and System Change (4/12)

On Equity in Our Workforce

By Rebecca Lurie

As I read the latest paper by Steve Dawson on workforce, once again I am grateful for the principles and practices he describes so well. (And succinctly! So if you have time to read a one-pager, do it! And don’t bother to read my post!)

Dawson’s paper, “Class Dismissed Defining Equity in our Workforce Field” suggests we look deeper into meaningful work and consider, when we train and prepare for jobs, that we also train and prepare for the broader world of work. Exposing trainees to organizing, policy, advocacy and cooperative business skills all as means to improve lives even when job placement options are not great.

The full series can be found here. I highly recommend it for those aiming to do more than good work through workforce development, but for those who want to use the opportunity when engaged in workforce training to help raise the bar, and advocate for better jobs and better work in a world that demands us to make ready ourselves, our young, our disenfranchised, for work that will improve conditions through a wide range of strategies and approaches.

Spring 2019 Special Topics Course: Economic Democracy & System Change (M 6:15-8:45pm)

Evan Casper-Futterman and Michael Menser

  • URB 651- Special Topics: Economic Democracy and System Change Class
  • LABR 669 – Special Topics: Economic Democracy and System Change Class
  • And cross listed at the Grad Center, Earth and Environmental Science Dept.

Discussions around economic democracy and economic “alternatives” often focus on either firm-level changes like cooperative ownership structures, or focus on high-level, abstract conceptual shifts from “capitalism” or “neoliberalism” to some “next system”. Where do system transformation and the transformation of daily life intersect and interact? How do we join the urgent need for institutional redesign and reconstruction to the present day political movements and structures available to us today?

In this class we will look at mechanisms and visions for democratizing the economy, politics, and social life. We will investigate democratic forms of ownership, management, production, and consumption and the institutional and political conditions needed for them to flourish and scale.  Perspectives discussed include solidarity economy, community wealth building, P2P, co-city, new municipalism, energy democracy, commons, climate justice. Processes and forms include participatory budgeting, green new deal, cooperatives, platform cooperativism, reparations, community land trusts, federal job guarantee, public bank, green transition.  Sectors include healthcare, climate change adaptation, advanced manufacturing, public utilities in energy, water and broadband. Readings will draw from multiple disciplines, and include scholarship, policy, and dispatches from activists and practitioners past and present including Kali Akuno, Sylvia Federici, Sheila Foster, Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Paul Mason, Nathan Schneider, and many others.

Call for Participation: Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change (4/12)

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO DECEMBER 15TH, 2018 

Can the economy be democratized? How can we transform it into a more socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable system?  How can we combat the growing concentrations of power and wealth? What current practices point toward a participatory democratic and resilient next system?

Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change is a conference designed to stimulate and explore these questions, to be held April 12th, 2019 in midtown, Manhattan.

There is growing interest in forms of ownership that are meaningfully different from the traditional capitalist forms (whether privately owned or publicly traded), build equity for individuals and communities, and utilize forms of decision-making that are more empowering than representational democracy.  This includes, among other forms, cooperatives (worker-, consumer-, producer-), co-determination, community land trusts, mutual housing associations, credit unions, participatory budgeting, intentional communities, and calls for basic income or a federal jobs guarantee. Many of these forms of economic democracy have been around for a long time but have never had that much impact within the larger frameworks of a liberal capitalist political economy.  Are they up to the task of the present moment? How can they be updated and interconnected to take on the intensifying political, economic, technological, and ecological problems that define our chaotic unequal present?

The School of Labor and Urban Studies (SLU) at the City University of New York is convening a conference for academics, activists, organizers, practitioners, advocates, policy researchers, and policy makers to discuss and analyze the current state of the theories and practices of economic democracy. Continue reading Call for Participation: Our Economy! Economic Democracy and System Change (4/12)

Elements of the Democratic Economy

For the sake of our communities and our environment, our economy will need to transform. But how? The language of “economic democracy” points us in a direction, but in order to make concrete advances and replicate successes, we need to be clear about just what a democratic economy consists of.  A new resource from The Next System Project can help guide the way:

Traditional policies and approaches are demonstrably failing to alter deteriorating long-run trends on income inequality, concentrated wealth, community divestment and displacement, persistent place- and race-based poverty, and environmental destruction. As a consequence, we have witnessed in recent years an explosion of interest in and practical experimentation with a variety of alternative economic institutions and models of ownership—from worker cooperatives and community land trusts to public banking and community development financial institutions—that are capable of fundamentally altering patterns of ownership and producing dramatically better distributional and other outcomes as a matter of course.  New hybrid forms are emerging, as well as ideas as to how innovative combinations might produce still more powerful results.  Taken as a whole, these institutions and approaches form the mosaic of a new democratic economy in the making, suggesting the contours of a next system beyond corporate capitalism and some pathways for getting there.  

Elements of the democratic economy distills this landscape of theoretical exploration and real-world practice into concise summaries describing each of the institutions involved, assessing their transformative characteristics and potential impact, and providing on-the-ground examples and a sense of the challenges yet to be overcome. The series is intended as an entry point for all those looking to understand the various building blocks of the democratic economy currently being constructed from the ground up in communities across our nation and around the world.

Explore sections on community land trusts, democratic energy utilities, resident-owned communities, limited equity housing cooperatives, and green banks. Check it out here.