– Union Co-op Symposium and Platform Cooperativism Event Offer Look at What’s Happening on the Ground and on the Web in the New Economy –
Cincinnati, Ohio and New York City – The two most exciting gatherings around worker-ownership in the country are happening at the same time this month: the Union Co-op Symposium in Cincinnati and the Platform Cooperativism convention in New York City. These events, being held November 13 and 14, represent two sides of a conversation about what the so-called “sharing economy” really means, and what it should mean.
The Union Co-op Symposium will bring together more than 200 workers, union and community organizers, and business and religious leaders to learn from one another and from colleagues from the Mondragon Corporation in Spain (the largest group of industrial worker-owned cooperatives). Being organized by the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI), a member of 1worker1vote.org, the Symposium offers a look at what’s happening on the ground to establish integrated networks of worker-owned, unionized businesses.
“Those of us building union co-op businesses come from both labor and community organizing backgrounds and from business development backgrounds. Benefitting from the Mondragon model of interconnected co-ops, we see tremendous opportunity right now to help create businesses that are about both making money and building sustainable lives for our worker-owners and our communities,” said Kristen Barker, co-founder of 1worker1vote.org and CUCI.
Platform Cooperativism will be hosted by the New School in New York City. Convened by Trebor Scholz, from The New School, and Nathan Schneider, from the University of Colorado Boulder, the event will be a coming-out party for the cooperative Internet, built of platforms owned and governed by the people who rely on them.
“Labor-sharing platforms like Uber and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk have used the fact that they are on the Internet to bypass both customs and laws about what constitutes fair employment. They’re poised to set workers’ rights back a century or more. But, thanks to that very same Internet, there has never been a better time to build an economy in which participants can share real ownership and real control,” wrote Nathan Schneider in Pacific Standard.
“Online platforms…grant workers new kinds of flexibility, but they also allow employers to act lawlessly and hire and fire much more freely—at great cost to people living paycheck to paycheck. Over the long term, whoever owns and controls these platforms will determine who benefits from the emerging future of work,” wrote Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider in Fact Company. “Cooperative platforms can give a face to the cloud workers who have been, for all practical purposes, anonymous, isolated, and ignored.”
“We live in an exciting time when several emerging models of work are coming together. But these are also critical moments where we need to ensure the next generation of workers enjoys the same benefits and protections as traditional 9-5 employees,” said Sara Horowitz, Freelancers Union’s Founder and Executive Director and a speaker during Platform Cooperativism. “It’s up to nonprofits, worker groups and other social-purpose organizations to pioneer a new system of economic support, one that caters to the needs of this new labor force. New Mutualism and platform cooperativism represent powerful strategies for these workers to come together and build their own futures.”
“When we learned about Platform Cooperativism, we were first frustrated to learn we had planned exciting events at the same time, and then thrilled to be connected towards a unified goal: democratizing the online economy and the workplace,” said Barker. “Our participants offer a depth of history and experience when it comes to solidarity and organizing, and the Platform team represents the fastest-growing labor force in the country: freelance workers.”
“The ‘Cooperative Internet’ is grounded in values similar to the Mondragon values that ground the work of 1worker1vote.org and the union co-op model,” said Michael Peck, co-founder of 1worker1vote.org and the North American Delegate for Mondragon. “These values insist on ownership as the ineluctable original system condition to combat inequality. Workers need to own both the platform and what goes on the platform. That may be what they share on a platform, or from our perspective, the work that is facilitated by that platform.”
Media interested in attending either event: Please send name, outlet, email and phone number to email@example.com.
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.