Economic Activism Opportunities

  • Starting and supporting worker co-ops via @Dematwork — BotL Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Starting and supporting worker co-ops.

    We think we believe in democracy and yet most of us spend eight hours — or, if we’re realistic, more than that — working under a dictatorship. Sure, thanks to the labor movement we have some loosely guarded rights and guarantees, but working for a business or a corporation, or even just a small business owner, essentially means serving at their pleasure.

    Unless you’re part of a worker co-op.

    Worker co-ops have been around basically forever, but just don’t get the kind of attention they should because our corporate media banks on the capitalist system we’re all beholden to. They give all the rights and power to the actual human beings who provide the labor and thus create the wealth. Novel concept: you build it, you benefit from it.

    The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives describe co-ops as “business entities that are owned and controlled by their members, the people who work in them.” They have two central characteristics: "(1) worker-members invest in and own the business together, and it distributes surplus to them and (2) decision-making is democratic, adhering to the general principle of one member-one vote.”

    Sounds great, right? If it sounds complicated to join or start, remember it’s an entire system we’re trying to bring down, here. A little work is going to be involved and luckily you don’t have to figure it out or do it on your own.

    The Democracy at Work Institute was created by the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives to help build co-ops especially in economically and socially marginalized communities by providing support, strategy, and relationship building.

    Their website — Institute.USWorker.coop — has resources for start-ups including frequently asked questions, 101-level presentations, questions to ask before meeting with legal counsel, guidelines, financing fundamentals, studies, and step-by-step guides. For those interested in joining rather than starting a coop, their home page also links to a searchable list of existing worker coops by state and industry and has a form for submitting additions to their database. You can find childcare, bakeries, breweries, massage centers, landscaping companies, eco-cleaners — almost any business you can think of is being run by workers in some part of the country.

    California has a bill worth supporting in the state legislature right now that would make worker coops easier to start and run. The "CA Worker Cooperative Act,” AB 816, clarifies existing law and broadens protections while creating more visibility for worker coops and providing a framework for developing new coops in the state. With nearly 40 million residents — more than 10% of the total U.S. population — and a variety of industries including many that traditionally disempower workers like agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing, California is a great testing ground for this legislation. If it can be successful there, it not only helps a whole lot of people, it can become model legislation for other states and possibly the federal government.

    You can sign the petition to support AB 816 at TheSELC.org under their "About Us, Advocacy" tab — or just click the link in the segment notes.

    If we’re going to change the system, we need to build working grassroots examples of alternatives. So, support the legislation in California and use the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives listing of worker-owned business to support the ones in your area.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Get involved with The Democracy at Work Institute, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

    Utilize the Democracy at Work Institute “Information for Start-ups”

    SIGN to support: CA AB 816: Worker Cooperative Act via The SELC

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    Use the collaborative legal resource e-library created by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) and the Green-Collar Communities Clinic (GC3) Co-opLaw.org

    Attend one of the conferences with the National Center For Employee Ownership

    Sources/further reading:

    "What is a Worker Cooperative?” via The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

    Read the full bill: "AB-816 Cooperative corporations: worker cooperatives”

    "CA Worker Coop Act Discussion” via The SELC

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #914 "Looking for something better (Capitalism)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Protest Black Friday - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Protest Black Friday.

    Happy Height of Capitalism Season! …or, happy holiday season, depending on your degree of festiveness. This is the time of year where we regularly hear of people getting trampled at Wal-Mart in the desperate rush to procure the item television advertising executives declare is the must-have, no-way-you-can-live-without-it gift.

    Low-wage workers must report for duty while the CEOs and high level managers who demand their stores open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday are home with their loved ones. This annual injustice has expanded so much over the past decade that the only thing left is for stores to be open 24-hours from Thanksgiving morning through the end of Black Friday.

    Luckily, there’s a super easy thing everyone listening can do to support the workers and stop further capitalist encroachment into our holidays: nothing. Really — you can just do nothing.

    Buy Nothing Day is an international day of protest against consumerism. Adbusters is promoting Buy Nothing Day with the hashtag #BND and asking people to “participate by not participating.” Just stay home. Don’t go shopping; don’t cross picket lines of striking workers. Simply opt-out of the post-turkey dash for deals. Let family and friends you hear discussing their plans to shop on Friday, November 28th know that you’re parking it on your couch with a movie or a book. Possibly even invite them to join you.

    Stores and malls are only opening Friday at dawn — some on Thanksgiving Day even — because people show up to shove each other out of the way in the hopes of saving 10% on a widget no one will remember was a thing by the time the snow melts. By not participating, you make it expensive for stories to open early, close late, and schedule extra staff.

    If you are moved to fight the tryptophan coma and get up off the couch, you can attend a Walmart Black Friday Protest — organized at BlackFridayProtests.org and under the hashtag “Walmart Strikers.” There are events happening all over the country in support of more than 2000 stores where workers are demanding a $15/hr living wage.

    Obviously, abstaining entirely from the annual purchasing bonanza is a tough ask that can go over like a stocking full of lead in some families. So, if you do plan to do a bit of the traditional holiday gift buying — perhaps on Cyber Monday, which is December 1st this year — don’t forget you can redirect a portion of corporate profits into supporting the production of this show through our Amazon link: http://www.bestoftheleft.com/amazon.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Participate by not participating: Buy Nothing Day #BND via Adbusters

    Follow and support Walmart Strikers via #WalmartStrikers on Twitter and Black Friday Protests

    Sources/further reading:

    "Sit-Down Strike at Walmart and Win? It's Been Done” via Huffington Post

    "Letter: Working and middle class should support fast food workers” via Fight For $15

    "Poll: Should retailers remain open on Thanksgiving?” with Steven Greenhouse on PBS Newshour

    Watch: "This Black Friday, Workers to Challenge the Waltons” via OUR Walmart

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #879 "Capitalism will not set you free (Economics)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10

    BOTL segment excerpt:

    If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be at a hardly adequate ten dollars and eight-six cents. Instead, due to shameful inaction by Congress, an often silent bully pulpit in the West Wing and a poverty-stricken worker class too exhausted to organize — the federal minimum wage remains seven dollars and twenty-five cents.

    At RaiseTheMinimumWage.com you can find the list of state’s with proposed legislation as well as the latest on the federal push. You can also share your story as a low wage worker. The NELP is putting a human face on the fight. They have a great step by step story building page to amplify the voices and experiences too often left out of the discussion and they’re directing it at Washington.

    You can also participate in the twitter campaign being led by the White House. Use #1010Means to add your voice to grassroots activists, “ordinary” citizens and legislators like Representative Keith Ellison from Minnesota who’s feed posts stats like “#1010Means one million veterans will see a pay increase; let’s thank our soldiers for their service and #RaisetheWage.” And Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon who tweeted: “#1010Means millions of Americans would see higher wages—particularly women who work full time. #RaiseTheWage.”

    Take Action:

    Raise the Minimum Wage via NELP

    Raise the Wage via The White House

    More info:

    Listen to the source segment for this activism at BOTL Activism: Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10, episode #823 "It makes moral and economic sense (Minimum Wage)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich