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1worker1vote.org and Mondragon International North America are building a national network of unionized worker-owned cooperative businesses to overcome inequality of opportunity, mobility, and income.

Neither Polemic, Redistributive, Protectionist, Elitist nor Expensive

There is no more transformational and now proven investment in human capital than greatly widened, deepened and inclusive “one worker, one vote” workplace ownership. With just a small amount of imagination but a great deal of concerted convening, America can have its all-inclusive, national rising-rebirth cake and eat it too through worker ownership policies and practices that are neither polemic, redistributive, protectionist nor elitist.

In a fractured country seeking desperately to heal itself, few alternatives offer up as much potential bipartisanship and potential to reconstruct a Main Street that works for all while requiring so little from the public treasury. Starting with the bottom-up reseeding of public square civics and workplace solidarity, this socially uniting approach to human capital investment will also elevate long-term productivity, promote sustainable and resilient growth, and literally pay for itself while requiring only a level national tax policy playing field and full openness to all participants to succeed.

America’s concluding ugliest and disruptive of general campaign seasons has featured media-abetted reacting for or against perceived world stage power projection and personal economic lifestyle humiliations to the point where calling out disease has garnered more air time than real discussions of any lasting cure. Our challenge now is to scale a nationwide healing conversation backed-up with experiences, innovations, and structures that work, inspire and impact those most severely harmed and in need.

As a revelatory reference visual, the 2012 Electoral Map results breaks down voting patterns in (Blue = Democrat) populous cities compared to rural (Red = Republican) districts almost everywhere else. What we see is a country divided by much more than mere colors and instead by structurally embedded inequalities too often linked to race, place-based and economic class infrastructure injustices.

2012 Electoral Map
The opportunity before us exceeds just taking employee ownership up to existing wealth. Instead, America is ready for inspired and proven policies and practices that uplift poverty, reverse downward mobility, and transform exclusion into solidarity-based stakeholder wealth through worker ownership.

Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission (April 2010) prescient declaration that, “Nothing Without Us, About Us, Is For Us,” aptly describes America’s current incongruent Red versus Blue states and urban versus rural impasse. Instead of common cause and shared experiences, we have Precariat, Salariat, Deplorables and Untouchables – hitherto irreconcilable warring clans united in mutual mistrust and inability to understand how the other side thinks and lives.

1worker1vote.org envisions a nationwide cultural intervention that binds high-impact union solidarity with the democratic power of cooperative ownership giving more working people, especially those in distressed and underserved communities, genuine control over their economic lives starting with a voice and a vote. We adapt the Mondragon cooperative network ecosystem experience, the most successful example for transforming a poverty-stricken region into a thriving community, to local living economic realities through inclusive stakeholder buy-in.

Tapping into the solidarity consciousness and national scale of labor and alternative labor movements is necessary for the creation of a robust, integrated network that is also strong at the most broken places. Concurrently, the ownership consciousness of the growing cooperative movement throughout the United States is leading to remarkable wealth generating results: five years after start-up, 90 percent of cooperatives are still operating compared to 3-5 percent of traditional businesses.

Our widespread and deepened, fully inclusive worker ownership approach features three concurrent, nationwide pillars: (1) “learning by doing,” Community College-centric education to frame common “best practice” values and results references and standards; (2) local living accelerator laboratories to launch and convert worker-owned and managed enterprises in collaboration with mission-driven financial partners; and (3) a nationwide policy campaign to level the tax and worker rights playing field to structure enterprises where workers have an equal voice and a vote, backed up by a single-class equity so that stakeholders become shareholders.

Our vocabulary leans on terms such as self-reliance, boot-strapping, individual responsibility, doing well by doing good, giving back and civic equity. Our process results reflect the values of profit-seeking enterprises collaborating within regenerating ecosystems, workplace democracy validating civic democracy, local reinvesting so that stakeholders become shareholders, individual empowering to optimize innovation and dedication, underserved community inclusion so that absolutely no one is left behind, and solidarity-building measures to inspire our American whole to reinforce and exceed the sum of our American parts.

Our worker-ownership approach eschews massive government intervention but also transforms predatory into virtuous cycle capitalism, reforms from within and leads without by example. It embraces where America is going and wants to go while fully honoring the best of our founding principles. The metrics are with us – hopefully the country is now ready to turn the page and, to paraphrase Candide, re-cultivate our national garden to grow hope and optimism, fairness, inclusion, service to others and equality once again as our defining American values and practices.

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