The Democracy at Work Conference

I took last week off due to a couple of things. The most important of which involved my wife and I becoming “Domestic Partners” in Dane County. Five years ago, we married ourselves in a handfasting ceremony at one of the area’s First Nations* “mounds”. We decided to seek legal status for some personal reason, but it was also a fun experience. This week, I was going to continue the discussion about how co-operatives should treat their workers. However, three events have caused me to delay it. The first involves my co-operative, Union Cab, which will be having two informal membership meetings this week. The first involves dealing with frustrations about bureaucracy and “management’s punitive practices”** among other angst driven issues. The second involves my co-operative’s attempt at creating solutions for dealing with our current “smokey hut” where people currently enjoy their smokey treats but which will likely be illegal when Wisconsin’s smoking ban goes into effect on July 5th. The former has been called by a couple of stewards, the latter by the General Manager.

The last reason is that a couple of key deadlines will be upon us. As President of the US Federation of Worker Co-operatives, I find it necessary, even obligatory, to push our annual conference. The Apex organization of worker co-operatives in the United States will be holding its annual meeting and biannual conference in Berkeley, CA from August 6-8.

The deadline for a discounted registration is June 30, 2010.

The deadline for registration is July 5, 2010–you can still attend after this date, but we may not be able to count you in on the dinner and meals. REGISTER TODAY!

With the theme, “The Work We Do Is The Solution” hundreds of worker cooperative members and cooperative developers will meet at the University of California—Berkeley from August 6-8, 2010 to share information, strategies and tactics to make their cooperatives stronger as well as to help create new worker cooperatives. The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives sponsors the conference and holds its annual meeting.

Texas Populist Jim Hightower will be the keynote speaker. Other featured speakers include the Evergreen Cooperative project from Cleveland (featured in TIME and The Economist as an innovative economic development strategy), the Toxic Soil Busters youth cooperative from Worcester, MA which has city contracts to do lead remediation, and representatives from EdVisions, which is changing the face of public education by developing teacher-run small charter schools across the country.

USFWC Executive Director Melissa Hoover emphasized the theme of the conference, noting that, “Worker cooperatives can be economic engines that generate the surplus we need to tackle the big problems. They can create jobs that offer opportunities for meaningful personal and professional growth.   They can build community power and shared wealth.  They can choose to conduct business in a restorative and sustainable way. They can create a powerful values-based and principled framework for making decisions about work, industry, and the economy.”

The conference will be held at the Clark Kerr Conference Center. The 2010 Conference may be one of the most important meetings of the decade for those interested in creating a more sustainable economy.

The USFWC has created a nation-wide Peer Advisor Network to assist member cooperatives and start-ups with guidance from people working in worker cooperatives. Along with new capitalization efforts underway, there has never been a better time in the United States to start a worker cooperative. We have created a strong support structure for fledging cooperatives as well as existing cooperatives who may need a hand up.

We have worked hard over the last four years (since the NYC conference) to create a vibrant national movement. We currently sit on the edge of success. This is our moment to surge forward. If you read this blog with any regularity, we need you in Berkeley. We need you in the movement. The time for worker co-operaters and those that believe that our economy should mirror our values need to act today.

See you in Berkeley!

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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