April 25, 2013
Labor-cooperative partnerships may herald a new strategy for labor–if they can get off the ground.
BY REBECCA BURNS
What has 18 owners, no bosses and high hopes for fostering workplace democracy in America? New Era Windows LLC, a worker-owned cooperative formed last year by members of United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 1110.
After occupying their factory to save their jobs—twice—workers at a closing Chicago windows plant decided last year to try a new tack: running the business themselves. They purchased equipment from their former bosses and are now setting up a new factory they believe will create good jobs in the city’s depressed economy.
New Era is one of a growing number of union-backed cooperatives nationwide that could herald a new strategy for labor. In his survey of existing cooperatives, economist Gar Alperovitz has calculated that the number of workers in partly or wholly employee-owned companies now exceeds those who belong to private-sector unions—a statistic that speaks both to the perilous state of the labor movement and the promise of reviving it through new structures.
In the case of New Era, the decision to form a cooperative was the result of a long battle with management. In 2008, upon being told that their factory would be closed and they would be fired immediately without severance pay, workers staged a six-day occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory and emerged victorious. Their stand, coming at the height of the financial crisis, was celebrated nationwide. It also emboldened them to occupy once again in February 2012, when new owner Serious Energy announced that it, too, would be closing the plant. The workers’ journey from occupiers to owners was paved in part by UE’s tradition of militancy, which some progressives hoped would inspire other unions fighting mass layoffs.
The labor movement at large hasn’t reprised the 1930s-era tactic of occupying factories in order to regain a foothold in existing workplaces. But a growing number of unions, led by the United Steelworkers (USW), are exploring creation of new worker-owned cooperatives as a strategy for contending with the offshoring of U.S. jobs. Like the workers who formed New Era Windows, USW began experimenting with cooperatives partly out of necessity—as job losses mounted amidst the financial crisis, “there seemed to be an opening to consider how we might create a better model, because everything was falling apart,” says Rob Witherell, USW’s cooperative strategist. USW decided to partner with Mondragon, Spain’s famous group of cooperatives, to create a template for union co-ops.
Now, USW is helping launch several pilot projects, including a green laundry in Pittsburgh that could replace some of the 100-plus jobs lost when an industrial laundry in the area closed several years ago. Members of United Food and Commercial Workers are currently employed in an urban farming cooperative in Cincinnati, with more projects planned under the behest of the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative.
Read the whole article from In These Times.
Learn more about the union co-op model from the United Steelworkers.
April 2, 2013
How Government Encourages Broad-Based Inclusive Capitalism
By David Madland and Karla Walter
American companies use a variety of financial incentives, from broad-based profit sharing and stock options to worker cooperatives and employee stock ownership plans, to reward their employees with a portion of the wealth those workers help generate. This kind of compensation goes well beyond simply paying wages or providing individual incentives, but rather involves granting workers ownership stakes in the company or a share of its profits based on workers’ collective performance—a concept we describe as inclusive capitalism.
Inclusive capitalism, when partnered with democratic workplace practices, has a proven record of helping workers and businesses alike in a myriad of ways. Additionally, it is an economic philosophy that can draw bipartisan support. Yet policy to advance inclusive capitalism has not been part of the national dialogue for quite some time.
The purpose of this report is to change this dynamic and jump-start a policy conversation aimed at promoting inclusive capitalism. While we do not advocate for specific policy changes in this report, our hope is that it will spark dialogue among policymakers and advocates about how inclusive capitalism can help address some of the most fundamental problems facing our economy; what government can do to encourage employers to use it more; and how to ensure that inclusive capitalism is done right so workers can enjoy the upsides of broad-based sharing and having an increased say on the job without being exposed to undue risk.
Inclusive capitalism is by no means a new or rare phenomenon in the United States. Companies and workers have practiced inclusive capitalism since the founding of our nation. Today almost half of U.S. workers receive some sort of inclusive capitalism compensation—though in most firms its use is quite limited.
Companies practicing broad-based inclusive capitalism range from unionized American steel manufacturers and air carriers to leading technology firms to growing, socially minded companies. The United States Steel Corporation, for example, pays quarterly cash profit-sharing payments to its unionized workforce, while a significant portion of Southwest Airlines’ stock is owned by its employees.3 Likewise, the high-tech firm Intel Corporation rewards its employees with both cash profit sharing and broad-based stock ownership through restricted stock and stock options. And then there are the socially minded companies such as the tea and coffee purveyor Equal Exchange and the beer maker New Belgium Brewing that are both employee-owned, the former through a worker cooperative and the other through an employee stock ownership plan.
Read more and download the report from the Center for American Progress.
March 31, 2013
“Think about it this way. We’re killing people in foreign lands in order to extract 200-million-year-old sunlight. Then we burn it . . . in order to boil water to create steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops just miles from our nation’s capital for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.”
– Sungevity founder, Danny Kennedy –
From “The Secret to Solar Power,” (New York Times, August 9, 2012), by Jeff Himmelman
Subconsciously but in good conscience, Danny Kennedy has framed a solar version of the new “Judo Economy” paradigm. In his “Judo Economy” energy framework, massive amounts of naturally incoming energy are reflected and redirected without impacting and hollowing out the earth’s layered crust, breaking up shale formations, absorbing and contaminating fresh water supplies, or inciting earthquake and volcanic instability. Naturally occurring momentum is deployed as a positive force to society’s advantage as opposed to boxing with the inevitable and unmovable, absorbing one crushing body blow after another. (more…)
March 6, 2013
MAPA Group has two initiatives in the NRDC E2 2102 report:
First, Isofoton North America, a project that MAPA Group designed and is leading featured on page nine (9). Jon Bisher, City Manager of Napoleon and Chairman of AMP, and Rick Stansley from University of Toledo, partnered with Isofoton North America and NRDC on this report.
Second, on page eleven (11), the Energetx, Holland-Michigan write-up represents another MAPA Group project. (more…)
November 26, 2012
Join us on December 17th in Washington, D.C. for a screening of Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work. The documentary, by veteran award-winning filmmakers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin, tells the little known stories of employee owned businesses that compete successfully in today’s economy while providing secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces.
With the long decline in US manufacturing and today’s economic crisis, millions have been thrown out of work, and many are losing their homes. The usual economic solutions are not working, so some citizens and public officials are ready to think outside of the box to reinvent our failing economy in order to restore long-term community stability and a more egalitarian way of life. (more…)
November 19, 2012
Now that the elections are over and before the nation’s fiscal cliff becomes a roadrunner cartoon without a happy ending, how can “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” with more elected women reformat, reinvent and re-glue Humpty Dumpty America back together again? In fact, today’s transformational issue transfixing our immediate attention is twofold – whether the chicken or the egg comes first in the sense that as a political economy America benefits most from catering and kowtowing to the one percent or reconfiguring to expand out to the ninety-nine percent, and whether the “forty-seven percent” chicken and egg takers mooch from the fifty-three percent chicken and egg makers. One way to read recent electoral entrails is that a voting majority of Americans believe no chicken and no egg “hatched it by themselves.”
Everyone needs a fix in an economy that practices the most extreme forms of ubiquitous absentee ownership. Contemporary voters in urban and rural fly-over country clamor for an America unchained from disappearing weakened linkages between a rising middle class and those left behind no matter where, no matter who. (more…)
November 2, 2012
Two of the hardest lessons to assimilate leading up to America’s 2012 national elections include the unchallenged devastation from extreme weather fall-out and credible domestic job creation economics by fully globalized industries such as automotive production. The first lesson is being re-learned in excruciating real-time (160 lives lost, $60 billion in damages, and counting) by the country’s powered-out, Northeast coastal populations. Today’s “Weather Security” imperatives are rechanneling yesterday’s “climate change” impasse like an action verb overshadows a noun.
In New York, the city that truly has it all with increasing frequency between reoccurring extreme weather and financial sector meltdown tsunamis, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s prophetic quip that “we have a 100-year flood every two years now” can apply both to Mother Nature and to Wall Street. Mayor Bloomberg’s recent presidential campaign endorsement represents the first and foremost “weather security” candidate pick of the 2012 election cycle.
Forget about the partisan politics, ideological polarization and vested interests distorting America’s climate change debate; hard, cold and wet reality has a way of realigning the national conversation, transforming ranting monologues into chastened dialogues. (more…)
October 2, 2012
This year is no different from any other national election year in recent memory. Primal political party strategies emerging before November’s archetypal vote continue to mark strong differences between “prosperity gospel” versus compassionate conservatives on the right pitted against “divine left” elitist class versus working class progressives on the left. The principal similarities between the two inner party schisms are that both the “prosperity gospel” and “divine left” wings have dominated when governing while the themes of compassionate conservatism and working class justice serve to win elections. Choosing to honor what wins elections while ending this equally flawed dichotomy within either party will create the next decade’s governing mandate.
Similarly, juxtaposing campaign contradictions with economic reality, this year’s presidential candidates confront two principal problems trying to drive a political and philosophical schism between “an opportunity society, where free people and free enterprise thrive and success is admired and emulated,” and an activist, more efficient and effective government working to promote equal opportunities to “ensure that all Americans have a fair shot if they work hard.” First, really smart and competitive nations know how, eclectically, to converge both so that the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Second, unmistakably skewed U.S. income inequality statistics show that the voting public knows that neither of the two approaches is working correctly either independently or together. (more…)
September 12, 2012
Job fair for veterans seeks staff for plant under way in Napoleon
BY KRIS TURNER
NAPOLEON — The solar-panel machinery inside Isofoton USA’s sprawling Napoleon facility is spaced out like giant puzzle pieces.
Machines are arranged in a line across the length of the former warehouse. Some of the equipment is ready to be strung together, while other pieces are positioned for the delivery of more machinery.
A few of the solar-panel manufacturer’s 12 employees tended to the equipment Friday, getting things ready for the company’s December ramp-up deadline.
“It’s like solar world around here,” said Michael Peck, chairman of Isofoton USA, who was in Napoleon on Friday for a veterans job fair being held by the company. (more…)
September 10, 2012
September 2012—a new white paper from DBL Shows Red States Lead in Green Job Growth
Clean tech may create a highly partisan debate in Washington D.C., but in the rest of country, it creates jobs. A new report examines the sharp contrasts between political rhetoric and on-the-ground reality, and shows that red states – not blue states – are leading clean tech or “green job” growth.
The report, “Red, White and Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs” authored by Nancy Pfund, Managing Partner, DBL Investors and Michael Lazar, a Yale University graduate student, demonstrates the growing importance of the clean tech industry in both red and blue states, and especially in swing states. (more…)