American workers are being pushed to the brink. With a true unemployment rate of 26.1%, continuing unsafe working conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and disproportionate effects on marginalized communities, the need for change has never been clearer.
"Are we going to allow brown-skinned agricultural workers, whose babies we put in cages, to all of a sudden be re-christened as ‘indispensable workers’ so that people social-distancing in the Hamptons can have their fresh strawberries?... We have an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and figure out what is work, what is value, what is fairness, what is justice.”
These are the words of Michael Peck, Executive Director of 1 Worker 1 Vote, former International Delegate (USA) for the Mondragón Co-operative Corporation (1999 – 2019), spoken during his recent appearance on our show All Things Co-op. A critical theme of this conversation focused on the need to grow worker solidarity in order to rebuild an economy for all: “Our culture is one of greed and selfishness, and defining liberty as ‘What's good for me, myself and I.’ We've lost solidarity. We really have to decide what it is that we stand for as a country.”
Building solidarity in practical terms, Peck argues, involves a growing collaboration and unity between unions and worker cooperatives. Many people wonder why a worker owner would need a union, and Peck explains how the experiences from Mondragón have influenced a union co-op model that is advocated for here in the U.S. (Watch a short clip from the episode about this union co-op model). “Unions bring solidarity. Cooperatives bring workplace democracy. And when we put solidarity together with workplace democracy we have the beginnings of a better social construct."
“There is a whole lot to do for an activist worker movement,” said Peck. We couldn’t agree more, and we hope All Things Co-op can be a contribution to the sharing and spreading of knowledge and ideas that can help us build a stronger, fuller democracy – in our politics and culture as well as in our economy – based on workers’ equal collaboration and shared leadership inside enterprises and throughout society.
The current season of All Things Co-op has featured the voices of many cooperative activists, advocates, developers, incubators, and enthusiasts, each with specific experience in building a cooperative economy. They have all contributed illuminating insights to the work that is being done, a shining example of how this important movement can continue to grow. The All Things Co-op Season 3 Episode List is the place for you to see all the past episodes all in one place.
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You can look forward to another fascinating conversation about cooperatives in our next episode of Economic Update, which features an interview with Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, an author and activist whose work focuses on economic democracy, in particular on worker cooperatives and public policy towards this enterprise sector. In particular, she discusses with Prof. Wolff why Cuba decided to move part of its economy from state owned/operated enterprises to worker co-ops, what oppositions and obstacles these co-ops face, and more. The episode has hit the airwaves and will be released on our website and YouTube channel Monday, October 26. If you want to hear more about Camila Piñeiro Harnecker’s research and work on Cuban cooperatives, you can listen to her 2019 interview on All Things Co-op.