YES! Magazine recently talked with one of our co-founders about union co-ops for their article, “What If Uber Were a Unionized, Worker-Owned Co-Op? These Denver Cabbies Are Making It Happen.”
“The labor movement has to bring ownership and equity into the picture,” Peck says, “because otherwise we’re going to be reduced to fighting for less and less.”
Partnerships like the one around Green Taxi could help it do that. If unions create worker-owned, union-backed cooperatives like Green Taxi, Peck argues that this would strengthen the co-op model and breathe new life into a labor movement that has seen a steady decline in membership. The resulting co-ops would provide alternatives to the Uber-like companies proliferating into other services, like Urban Sitter for child care or Washio for laundry service.
Further, the partnerships give unions more choices. They offer an alternative to the uphill battle for important yet limited issues like living wages, job security, and safe working conditions. Supporting worker-ownership presents an opportunity for unions to help create situations where workers define their own labor conditions.
They went on to explain why co-ops go union:
“A lot of times, people form a cooperative,” Peck says, “and think, ‘We’ve got this really great democratic structure—it’s going to be perfect.’ And they end up spending the first few years figuring out where all the stop signs are, when what they really should be doing is focusing on the business.” In other words, new cooperative owners might not have experience in negotiating wages or benefit plans.
One way to manage this tension is for worker-owners to also be union members, he argues. That way, the union negotiates with the cooperative’s management or board of directors when it comes to concerns like pension plans or safety and training programs—areas in which unions traditionally have a lot of experience.