Looking ahead after Labor Day, Owning a Better Future has a great piece on the potential of worker cooperatives and unions:
The opening for organizing through ownership is here. People have been organizing themselves through collective ownership for over a hundred and fifty years, through worker-owned cooperatives. Yet, so far, worker-owned cooperatives exist only on the margins of our economy. Is it because those businesses are less productive or less profitable? Actually, studies have shown worker-owned cooperatives to be more productive and more profitable, on average, than businesses with more traditional forms of ownership. The answer, I believe, comes down to resources and organization. If the organization existed to provide education and training, as well as the resources to financially back new co-ops and provide ongoing support and networking, then growth could become significant.
Not only is there one organization that has begun to provide those types of resources and networking, there are several that have recently emerged. The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) was formed 10 years ago by existing worker-owned co-ops to do that type of work at a national level. USFWC has recently taken another big step forward and launched a non-profit, the Democracy at Work Institute. In Cincinnati, a group of labor and community activists launched the Cincinnati Union Co-op Initiative (CUCI), which has been an incubator and has already launched several unionized worker-owned cooperative businesses (Union Co-ops) in the Cincinnati area. This year, 1worker1vote.org launched to expand upon the work of CUCI and the USW-Mondragon collaboration to promote and incubate Union Co-ops around the country. The Freelancers Union was formed a few years ago as a support network for freelance writers, graphic designers, and others who no longer had an employer and were out on their own. As freelancers collaborate more and more, interest in co-ops has been growing.
As job creators, unions would have the ability to organize large segments of the workforce, such as independent contractors, that have been out of reach for too long. The Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York, NY is already an example of how homecare workers might be better organized. Union Cab in Madison, WI is already an example of how taxi drivers can organize into ownership. WAGES in the San Francisco Bay Area is already an example of how house cleaners can organize. And there are so many more examples… but replicating and building on those examples (and more) takes organization and resources. That’s what unions bring to the table.
By recognizing unions and co-ops are part of the same labor movement, and by creating a strong collaboration between them, creates the opportunity for unprecedented growth in worker ownership, while improving wages and benefits, and lifting up whole communities to become more viable and more sustainable.
Read and share the full article, Organizing through Ownership.