The Scarcity of Worker Cooperatives in the USA: Enquiring into Possible Causes

By Rebecca Lurie

Last year, the Community and Worker Ownership Project and John Mollenkopf at the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center were pleased to host Professor Sofia Arana Landin for research on cooperative economics in New York City. Her work was extensive in building foundational thought for a comparative study of cooperative enterprises’ success and challenges in the US as compared to other countries, especially in the European Union.

Professor Arana teaches taxation law and cooperatives at the public university in San Sebastian, Spain. Arriving to the states shortly after the inauguration of the 45th president for this research, the juxtaposition of opportunities and constraints was almost too much to bear. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Cooperative businesses, being a hybrid of “for profit” and “social” purposes, have a mission broader than that of a traditional business. Continue reading The Scarcity of Worker Cooperatives in the USA: Enquiring into Possible Causes

Dispatch from the Labor Notes Conference

By Rebecca Lurie

This month was the bi-annual Labor Notes Conference of the “International Troublemakers and Boat-Rockers Union.” Those who have never been before can imagine it as the place where grassroots union and worker organizers meet union leadership on their terms, led by those previously left out of leadership in our unions. Youth, women and people of color speak, lead and shine.

At this year’s event in Chicago, Verizon workers and teachers led the day. With 3,000 attendees, the conference had workshops and panels celebrating and teaching the hard-learned ways to organize for deepening democracy and justice at work.    Continue reading Dispatch from the Labor Notes Conference

New Labor Forum Highlights: April 17th, 2018

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.

This newsletter appears one week in advance of the fifth anniversary of Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, the worst disaster in the history of factory-based garment production. Evidence had been legion of the construction defects of the Rana Plaza factories in the Dhaka District of Bangladesh. In fact, on the morning of April 24th, some of the 3,639 Rana Plaza workers had pointed out large cracks in the factory walls and refused to enter.  Factory owner, Sohel Rana, is reported to have threatened the circumspect workers with non payment for the month of April and, with hired goons, forced their entry into the building. Less than an hour later, 1,135 workers perished in the collapsing buildings.

In their trenchant article for New Labor Forum, Rich Appelbaum and Nelson Lichtenstein reveal the great degree of integration between corporate brands and retailers and the manufacturers of the global south that source their product. This global supply chain functions under a legal regime that absolves those brands and retailers of responsibility for the substandard pay and working conditions that undergirds this business model.

This week, from April 18-24, students, union members, consumers, and activists around the world will participate in a Global Week of Action calling on apparel brands to sign the 2018 Accord, a promising initiative discussed in the Appelbaum and Lichtenstein article, to hold powerful retailers and brands responsible for working conditions in supplier factories. In the United States, demonstrations will take place at A&F stores around the country on Saturday, April 21.

Table of Contents

  1. An Accident in History/ Rich Appelbaum and Nelson Lichtenstein, New Labor Forum
  2. Global Week of Action/ United Students Against Sweatshops
  3. Are factories better in Bangladesh after Rana Plaza? That depends on who you ask/ Andrea Crossan and Jasmine Garsd, Public Radio International, The World
  4. “Rana Plaza” Poem/ Eileen Ridge

Photo by rijans via flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Comparative Studies in Cooperative Economies – EU and USA

By Rebecca Lurie

María Pilar Alguacil Marí, Professor of Financial and Tax Law at the University of Valencia, recently spent time at the Murphy Institute for Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY, where she has carried out various academic activities and taught two seminars.

The first seminar, “Academic Study of Cooperative Economics,” was held on April 2nd and dealt with the different methodological concepts around social economy and cooperatives, such as the nonprofit, or “third sector” approaches, as well as other emerging concepts: social enterprises, collaborative economy, and more. The relevance that these subjects have in the university studies in Spain and Europe was also explored. The seminar ended with a debate among the attendees, who described the situation around cooperative economic education at CUNY, and expressed the need to increase university training in cooperatives. Continue reading Comparative Studies in Cooperative Economies – EU and USA

TRADE UNIONS AND JUST TRANSITION: TUED WORKING PAPER #11

By Sean Sweeney and John Treat

The concept of “Just Transition” has become increasingly in vogue in recent years in international political circles. While commonly ascribed to be “transformative” in potential, like any fashionable term it runs the risk of being emptied of content and coopted by arbiters of the status quo. So what really is Just Transition, and why is it potentially so transformative? This is the question the authors set out to answer in this eleventh working paper published under the auspices of our Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) project.

In one of its most thorough treatments to date, Sean Sweeney and John Treat, both of the Murphy Institute, not only define the concept of Just Transition but take us through its history and the various polemics that surround it. Starting with its roots in the U.S. labor movement, the authors trace the development of the concept, from being one focused almost exclusively on workers impacted by environmental policies, to becoming much broader in its call for socioecological transformation at the point of not only consumption but also production. Continue reading TRADE UNIONS AND JUST TRANSITION: TUED WORKING PAPER #11

The Chief-Leader Features Murphy Institute Conference on #MeToo

Last Friday, the Murphy Institute hosted a day-long event on labor and community in the age of #MeToo. The event brought together leaders from the labor movement, legal advocacy and gender equity work — with thought-provoking and actionable results.

For a round up of some of the discussions and panels from the event, check out The Chief-Leader’s coverage of the event by reporter Crystal Lewis here. From the article:

“The fact that we’re still talking about sexual harassment six months after #MeToo shows this isn’t a moment: it’s a movement,” said Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality at the National Women’s Law Center during a March 23 panel on sexual harassment at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.

Students, union members and advocates attended the panel at the Murphy Institute’s headquarters in Midtown to learn and discuss strategies that labor and community groups could use to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Once allegations surfaced last October that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted or otherwise harassed dozens of women in the entertainment business, the #MeToo movement triggered accusations of sexual misconduct in other industries.

Read the full article here.

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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