By Simon Taylor
Trade unionist Jimmy Reid described alienation as ‘the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making.’ This frustration is endemic in contemporary neoliberalised economies, and according to commentators, including George Monbiot, it contributes to the rise of populist backlashes and disempowerment.
Unions play a vital role in counter-balancing alienation and frustration, responding to organizations imposing alienating practices on their workers. However, neoliberal policies have contributed to a long-term decline of union membership and influence in the Anglosphere and elsewhere.
But workers and unions can counter alienation and other negative effects of neoliberal policies – such as outsourcing, precarity and union decline – in new and imaginative ways. Continue reading Union Cooperatives: What They Are and Why We Need Them
This article was originally featured at Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
By Brian Van Slyke, Truthout
The year 2008 was when the big banks were bailed out, but it was also the year that catalyzed one group of window makers into democratically running their own factory.
On the former industrial hub of Goose Island in Chicago, the employees of Republic Windows and Doors made headlines after they were locked out of their jobs just before Christmas without the back pay or severance they were owed. Organized by the United Electrical Workers Union, these displaced workers did exactly what the ownership hoped they wouldn’t do. They refused to quietly accept the layoffs. Instead, the workers engaged in a sitdown strike at their factory, garnering local and national media attention. Eventually, the employees won the occupation, forcing Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase (Republic’s primary creditors) to create a fund to give the workers their back pay, benefits, and health insurance. This became viewed as a much-needed victory for workers and unions in a desperate economic time.
And this January, more than seven years after their initial takeover, the workers finally received their last payment won from their struggle. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The National Labor Relations Board announced Wednesday that it will distribute to 270 union workers $295,000 in back pay stemming from labor law violations.”
While many people know about the takeover of Republic Windows and Doors, the story of what happened next has flown under the radar. Continue reading Unions and Cooperatives: How Workers Can Survive and Thrive
On March 30th, the Murphy Institute hosted “Building a Worker Coop Ecosystem: Mondragon Meets the Five Boroughs,” a public conversation featuring Frederick Freundlich of Mondragon University and moderated by Stephanie Guico.
The conversation began with an explanation by Freudlich of the Mondragon network of worker coops in the Basque region of Spain. The network includes approximately 120 cooperatives and 130 affiliates or subsidiaries, all working across four broad areas — manufacturing, retail, finance, knowledge — and creating a livelihood for approximately 74,000 people. Freundlich discussed the history of the Mondragon system, tracing its origins back to the Spanish Civil War and describing the emergence of ancillary institutions, such as the cooperative bank, that have provided resources and support to the cooperative network throughout its development. Continue reading Coop Event at Murphy Draws Large Crowd