Archive for August, 2013

The Alternative American Dream: Inclusive Capitalism | PBS NewsHour

By Chris Mackin

In this 1987 MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour report, Paul Solman reported on workers’ attempt to buyout the General Dynamics shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, and spoke with Chris Mackin, a leader in the worker ownership movement.

Paul Solman: Worker ownership: When I joined the labor force in 1970, it was the dream of many an “alternative” business, including ones I worked for. Egalitarianism. Justice. Capitalism for all. A Boston weekly newspaper of which I was the editor, “The Real Paper,” was in fact entirely owned by its staff.

Chris Mackin, of the consulting firm Ownership Associates, has been a key figure in the worker ownership movement for almost as long as I’ve been a journalist. He first showed up in a NewsHour story of mine in 1987. He was advising a worker buyout of a shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, about which we were reporting.

When I ran into him recently, I asked him to tell me what has happened to the worker ownership dream. Here’s his report.

Chris Mackin: In the classic 1967 film “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman gets a single word of advice about the secrets of prosperity: “Plastics.” Almost 50 years later, as economic inequality gallops, compounds and then gallops some more, we need a similarly pithy intervention to address matters of economic fairness.

One candidate that may be equal to that task is a homely sounding economic noun that separates the wealthy from the rest of us. “Assets” are a seemingly magical set of resources that work for anyone who owns them. In conversations about economic fairness, “assets” are a resource that has largely remained outside the policy tent. President Obama has recently raised expectations about how economic policy might attack the problem of inequality. But he likely won’t get that far unless he too is ready to step outside that tent.

Accounting textbooks teach us that there are different categories of assets, both tangible (e.g., land, buildings, housing, corporate stock, minerals) and intangible (e.g., patents, goodwill, copyrights). Wealthy people own lots of these assets. So many that they often forgo that more pedestrian instrument that makes possible the accumulation of income, the paycheck.

Unwealthy people own few, if any, assets. Theirs is wage-dependent, income based universe. They live from paycheck to paycheck. If assets are the key discriminant that sustains the wealthy, why is it that the most commonly invoked solutions to economic inequality tend to focus on income enhancing measures such as minimum wage campaigns, payroll tax credits and job training? That’s not where the real money is. One could be forgiven for suspecting a plot. If the general problem of economic inequality could be likened to an overly deep bowl of soup that should be more fairly consumed, income-based solutions attack the challenge with forks. We need spoons, asset spoons. Let’s examine a few.

View/read the entire piece via PBS NewsHour.

The Reading Revolution

The debate over who lost Detroit and how to fix it rages on while Politico reports in “Break-up-the-big-banks fever hits the states” that legislators from “at least 18 states have introduced resolutions this year calling on Congress to split up banking giants by putting back in place a wall between commercial banking, taking deposits and making loans, and investment banking, the world of traders and deal-makers.” It turns out that quarantining the banksters and salvaging our cities have a lot in common in an America that currently ranks below Zimbabwe in global income inequality and social mobility.

The key issue facing America’s liposucked cities is how to monetize assets without giving up public sector control. (more…)

Cincinnati union co-op Our Harvest grows a national profile from roots in College Hill | WCPO

by Elissa Yancey, WCPO Digital Contributing Environment Editor

CINCINNATI – On a main road in College Hill, smack dab in the middle of an urban food desert, sits a quiet, 28-acre farm at the center of a revolution.

A freshly built propagation house stands just a hundred yards or so off a four-lane section of North Bend Road that 20,000 cars traverse daily. Inside, the last remains of a small patch of cucumbers dangle from tall vines next to rows of knee-high hot pepper plants; piles of onions dry out on a row of pallets, their last stop before delivery to local homes, grocers and restaurants.

Fields of tomatoes, broccoli, beans and Swiss chard lead back to a pasture where more than a dozen cows graze over a hillside. On an early August afternoon, four farmers work the land. They water, weed and collect ripe vegetables; they inspect each new find with a gentle touch, crouching and reaching and stretching their way down neatly planted rows.

Just four-and-a-half acres of Bahr Farm, one of the last remaining family farms within Cincinnati city limits, serves as the incubator farm for Our Harvest, a union cooperative with major ambition and a core group of leaders determined to reshape the local food culture.

The cooperative, now reaping its second summer of organically grown harvest, has already garnered international attention and national press.

Our Harvest is the first business launched as a part of the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative, or CUCI. Founded by local peace, justice and union professionals, CUCI is based on an international worker-owned business model and infused with American union support.

“We are very interested in helping to rebuild our food system here,” said CUCI co-founder Kristen Barker, 36. “We want to put so much of this fertile land back into production and create good, family-sustaining jobs. And we want to impact food access issues in a serious way.”

Read the whole article at WCPO.

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