Launched in September 2016 the Murphy Institute’s Community and Worker Ownership Project (CWOP) seeks to support undertakings in worker-owned cooperatives, worker participation and control and the development of grassroots leadership in community decision making. Working alongside labor and community organizations and partners in the university the project will develop non-credit courses and new coursework for degree programs and offer public programming and research opportunities — all to advance the thinking and doing of cooperative ownership and shared management practices towards economic democracy.
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?
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 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.
Tuesday, September 18th
10am – 11:30am
New Economy Project
121 West 27th Street, Suite 804
New York, NY 10001
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
The Public Bank NYC Coalition believes public money should work “for the public good, not private gain.” To that end, it advocates for a public bank that can:
support vital sectors of our local economy and divest from banks that are financing destructive corporate interests, including speculative real estate, private prison and immigrant detention companies, the global arms trade and the fossil fuel industry.
The Laura Flanders Show just released a video profile featuring Deyanira del Río from the New Economy Project, Linda Levy of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and Enlace’s Cindy Martinez, highlighting the need for a bank and what it aims to do. Check it out!
On Friday, May 11th, in collaboration with Democracy @ Work New York, the Murphy Institute hosted a fascinating panel exploring how progressive local innovations stand to solve long-standing, seemingly intractable issues around poverty and inequality. Panelists included:
Michael Menser, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, Earth and Environmental Science and Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center, Chair of the Board of The Participatory Budgeting Project, and author of We Decide! Theories and Cases in Participatory Democracy
Gabriela Alvarez, Chef and founder of Liberation Cuisine, a catering company dedicated to preparing meals collectively with sustainable ingredients and practices. Alvarez recently took her passion for healing and organizing with food to Puerto Rico to help with relief and rebuilding efforts
Kali Akuno, co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a network of cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises and the author of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi
Yorman Nunez, Program Manager at Community Innovators Lab MIT and coordinator of Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative
Miss the panel or want to experience it again? Watch it here:
In New York City worker cooperatives, participatory budgeting, and community land trusts are on the policy platform of the City Council’s progressive caucus and elected officials in the democratic party are pushing legislation for employee and worker ownership at the state and federal levels. With greater visibility and support from the public sector some believe that these pilots and experiments for neighborhoods to drive wealth creation and capture and create equitable economic opportunities can reach into broad-based and mainstream policy.
There is an opening here to expand the horizon of what is seen as possible for genuine equitable urban economic development, and its relationship to labor, communities and the political economy. In short, we can change the conversation from mostly pushing for greater accountability and transparency in the existing economic development order, to a conversation about what should come next and what policies and institutions would be a part of getting us there.
A conversation about workers, communities and social justice