Category Archives: CWOP

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.

CFL Fall 2018 Worker Cooperative Development Initiative

CFL is excited to announce a fall training series for organizations interested in worker cooperative development in NYC. This 6-session training will focus on socio-political foundations of cooperative development, coop basics and development models, and tools for organizing worker cooperatives.

This training is intended for organizations who want to explore creating a worker cooperative development initiative as a vehicle for economic justice in their community.

Read more here, and sign up for the information session here.

Information session:

Tuesday, September 18th
10am – 11:30am
New Economy Project
121 West 27th Street, Suite 804
New York, NY 10001

Main Street Employee Ownership Act Signed Into Law

On August 12th, historic legislation was passed in the form of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act — legislation which promises to “support small businesses that save jobs and invest in their workers and communities by transitioning to an employee-owned business form such as a cooperative (co-op) or an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).”

“We applaud this commitment to provide education, microloans, and training through the Small Business Administration, which will cultivate healthy business successions to employee ownership, saving critical business assets and keeping our communities strong and prosperous,” said Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI).  More from DAWI:

Thousands of worker cooperatives and ESOPs in the US have demonstrated that employee ownership is good for businesses, workers, and the local economy. Companies that transition to employee ownership see an increase in productivity by 4 to 5 percent,  tend to survive longer than conventional firms, and have fewer layoffs. With a more equitable pay ratio and demonstrated impacts for workers across the wage spectrum, “employee ownership has great potential to stabilize employment, to root productive capital in communities, and to increase the assets and incomes of working families,” according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

This legislation, which improves access to capital and technical assistance for employee-owned businesses, will greatly help worker co-ops, includes directives to SBA to:

  • Finance the sale of businesses to their employees
  • Work with Small Business Development Centers across the country to provide training and education on employee ownership options
  • Report on SBA’s lending and outreach to employee-owned businesses