Sun Dec 9, 2012, 05:22 PM
99th_Monkey (11,875 posts)
WSJournal More Interested in Caviar & Foie Gras Than Worker-owned Firms
Wall Street Journal More Interested in Caviar and Foie Gras Than Employee-owned Firms
Published on Saturday, December 8, 2012 by Common Dreams - by Gar Alperovitz
Social pain, anger at ecological degradation and the inability of traditional politics to address deep economic failings has fueled an extraordinary amount of practical on-the-ground institutional experimentation and innovation by activists, economists and socially minded business leaders in communities around the country.
A vast democratized “new economy” is slowly emerging throughout the United States. The general public, however, knows almost nothing about it because the American press simply does not cover the developing institutions and strategies.
For instance, a sample assessment of coverage between January and November of 2012 by the most widely circulated newspaper in the United States , the Wall Street Journal, found ten times more references to caviar than to employee-owned firms, a growing sector of the economy that involves more than $800 billion in assets and 10 million employee-owners — around three million more individuals than are members of unions in the private sector.
This could be the start of something big. What's not to like about "democratizing the US economy" via worker-owned enterprises?
This kind of restructuring of our economy, literally from the ground up, represents a golden economic recovery opportunity: a win/win strategy that hugely benefits virtually everyone, everyone except the Filthy Rich who are insatiable parasites .... a "1% luxury" we can no longer afford, to continue to run roughshod over the bloody corpses of everybody else, at will.
This could totally become a game-changer, if we choose to make it so. For those of you rusty on your labor history, the early labor movements were ALL about worker-ownership.
In the 1880s, workers formed the Knights of Labor to resist capitalist efforts to reduce wages, create a reserve army of labor, and devalue worker skills. The Knights expanded to become the largest workers organization through mobilizing labor in factories and applying its resources to establish approximately 200 industrial cooperatives. By the end of the 19th century, as mercantile and finance capital established dominance over US politics, the Knights’ effort to create a national cooperative alliance with rural farmers failed to materialize. However these efforts reached an apogee in 1887 through the formation of a coalition with the Farmers Alliance and the organization of succession of new political parties to serve and represent the interests of the new cooperative movement.
Worker-ownership is the next big thing, an idea coming full-circle, whose time has finally come, as evidenced by the WSJ's studied ignorance of this burgeoning phenomenon. This is no "pie in the sky" pipe-dream, as we speak US Senator Bernie Sanders is putting legislative legs onto this concept in Congress: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=782b77ac-49d6-408e-9b32-369735f0091b
3 replies, 1022 views
WSJournal More Interested in Caviar & Foie Gras Than Worker-owned Firms (Original post)
Response to 99th_Monkey (Original post)
Mon Dec 10, 2012, 03:18 PM
jtuck004 (11,699 posts)
1. Just because the WSJ ignores it doesn't mean it's not there.
In Spain, Mondragon has been out there since the priest started the technical college, and then the graduates borrowed money from the villagers and bought that paraffin plant back in the 50's. At the end of 2011 it was providing employment for 83,869 people working in 256 companies in four areas of activity: Finance, Industry, Retail and Knowledge.
In 2010 they posted revenues of $14.8 billion euros, around $20 billion US$ at the time.
They have not been unaffected by the global slowdown,but have yet to lay off anyone. Instead the owners - workers - shuffled their hours, and moved people to other plants, because they think work is a necessary part of living.
It has to be driven by the workers, however, and the Basque area is much more egalitarian than the US in general. They started with a technical college back in the late 40's, early 50's or so, and it's whole curricula is based on the idea that workers CAN do this, in sharp contrast to the US. Because control is spread across the org it also doesn't lend it self to private equity\junk bond firms overpaying, loading the business up with debt and taking money out to put in the pocket of some dirty, thieving, predatory company owners, leaving a bankrupt shell with debts for the taxpayer to pick up and no future for the employees who have worked there, sometimes for decades. No wonder the WSJ isn't all that interested.
The United Steelworkers signed an agreement last year to explore cooperative opportunities with Mondragon.
The U.S. had about 48,000 cooperatives listed last year, iirc. And the IWW supported, and still supports this concept.
Thank you for this.
Response to jtuck004 (Reply #1)
Mon Dec 10, 2012, 04:55 PM
99th_Monkey (11,875 posts)
2. I knew about the Mondragon phenomenon
Hell, they even have cooperative banks, child care centers, etc. My graduate work at
the Univ. of Oregon in the mid 80s focused on worker ownership as a means of anchoring
jobs and capital into local communities, particularly ones being hard hit in NW region due
to massive downturn in the timber industry at the time.
What I did NOT know, is about the United Steelworkers exploring opportunities with
Mondragon. Despite Labor's early history in US, many union peeps in 80s were suspicious
of worker ownership because it represented a departure from collective bargaining; but
that was beginning to change too, as I got a work-study gig on campus Labor Institute
writing a manual for worker buy-outs of distressed companies.
And yes, the IWW has been on board all along.
Response to 99th_Monkey (Reply #2)
Mon Dec 10, 2012, 06:05 PM
jtuck004 (11,699 posts)
3. What I like about Mondragon is the democratic control.
And in order to maintain that they found it important to put all those things together so they could control them.
They are great at sharing what they know, but they warn that it works because the Basque are more egalitarian, and it really does take a different mindset to work in a really democratically run org. That may be why we don't see more here, despite the obvious benefits. After people go through 12 years of school where they are taught to look to everyone else except each other for guidance they are dependent rather than independent. Bosses like that, especially today. But that also shapes their thinking and worldview, so training people in a cooperative is a real challenge. Still, we don't do near enough to work toward that, I think.
The agreement between Mondragon and USW was out there on the USW site. It made me laugh to read the twists and turns as they tried to keep the union, which depends on the struggle between labor and management, relevant when the workers are the owners. (I suspect they are trying to keep their old jobs relevant and not have to change, like parents who want their kids to die at home of old age instead of growing up and away. And that's not healthy. But that's what "business unionism" is all about).