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.
By Rebecca Lurie
Black History Month is here — and we must declare Black Lives Matter well beyond any one month.
Dr. Phil Thompson shares some important facts and insights in a recent article in the New Labor Forum, “The Future of Urban Populism: Will Cities Turn the Political Tide?“ He clearly lays out that the generations of inequality and disparate opportunities between the races stems from capitalism and its use of race as a tool to create and maintain the underclass, slavery, disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, poverty, low mortality rates and economic injustice.
Thompson identifies all the challenges for a new progressivism, and yet notes that, “…change is very possible. There are already hundreds, if not thousands, of small initiatives underway in cities to disrupt or reverse these dominant negative trends.” He then challenges us to make a movement of these efforts. Continue reading Black Communities Leading the Movement for Economic Democracy
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
Want more on worker cooperatives, solidarity economies, and the role of organized labor? Join us at the Murphy Institute on December 4th for our upcoming Labor Breakfast Forum, Solidarity Economies: Worker Coops.
This article originally appeared at Grassroots Economic Organizing.
By Christopher Michael
In the 1980s, the British government supported a comprehensive system of local worker cooperative support organizations (CSOs). The first CSO was formed in Scotland in 1976. By 1986, approximately 100 CSOs spotted the country — with higher concentrations in urban areas. About 80 of these CSOs were funded — mostly by local municipalities — with full-time staff at an average of three employees. In tandem, Parliament chartered a national “Co-operative Development Agency” with a 1978 bill — which aided the growth of local CSOs, served as a “safety net” for regions without CSOs, collected statistics, and acted as government liaison with regard to new legislation.
These government-funded support organizations engaged primarily with low-income, ethnic minority, and female entrepreneurs. CSO staff members provided training courses on worker cooperatives, direct technical assistance, and also loan financing at an average of $50,000 (current U.S. dollars) per worker cooperative. This ten-year experiment produced approximately 2,000 new worker cooperatives — and almost none exist today. Continue reading What is Worker Cooperative Development?
By Marjorie Kelly and Sarah McKinley
This article was originally featured at Yes! Magazine and adapted from Cities Building Community Wealth, a project of The Democracy Collaborative, for New Economy Week.
In cities across the nation, a few enjoy rising affluence while many struggle to get by.
An August 2015 study by The Century Foundation reported that—after a dramatic decline in concentrated poverty between 1990 and 2000—poverty has since reconcentrated. Nationwide, the number of people living in high-poverty ghettos and slums has nearly doubled since 2000. This situation is created in part by the practices of traditional economic development, which prioritize corporate subsidy after corporate subsidy over the needs of the local economy. Current trends threaten to worsen, unless we can answer the design challenge before us.
Can we create an economic system—beginning at the local level—that builds the wealth and prosperity of everyone? Continue reading Bringing Neighborhoods Wealth — Not Gentrification
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