What will the worker co-operative movement look like in 2040?
It will look like whatever we make it look like. We need to start thinking today about the world in 30 years.
I am not sure how useful it is to talk about the failure of capitalism. I say this for a couple of reasons:
- Capitalism isn’t failing. It is coalescing power and wealth into fewer and fewer hands. That is what capitalism is supposed to do. Whether this is sustainable on a ecological scale has yet to be determined.
- Capitalism is a crisis-based economic system. It is supposed to have periodic crisis or panics in order to weed out the fakers and the weak. This is economic Darwinism.
- A societal failure of capitalism does not ensure a co-operative resurgence. It may bring in other systems: feudalism (its predecessor), fascism, and state-socialism.
- A failure of capitalism (if it truly fails) may well be linked to an ecological collapse. This isn’t a world that we either want to see or will be able to survive within.
What we need to do, it agree to some realistic, attainable goals regarding our communities and economies. In this regard, the worker co-operative movement has a lot to offer:
- Workers won’t pick up and move for a better tax cut
- Worker Co-ops tend to raise the bar on pay, benefits, and working conditions
- Worker Co-ops help train workers to engage with their community
One way of looking at the economy is to consider the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). These are areas linked to general economic identity. Madison, my home town, currently ranks as 88th in the list of MSAs.
How many MSA in the top 200 MSA have existing worker co-operatives? What percent of the MSA economy do worker co-ops represent? Do the planning documents of the MSA primary municipality or regional planning authority promote the development of worker co-operatives (or even mention worker co-operatives)?
We need to answer these questions. We need to set goals.
I would set the following goals for 2040:
- Worker co-operatives will exist in each of the top 150 MSAs in the United States.
- Worker Co-operatives will account for between 0.5% and 5% of the GDP for the each MSA
- Worker Co-operatives will be part of the planning documents for the regional and municipal planning departments in at least 1/2 of the top 150 MSA and in all of the MSA’s in which co-ops already existed in 2010.
Well, there is an end point, but how do we get there?
We need to start by creating the materials for municipalities to see and teach them about worker co-operatives. We need to start locally within our own group.
In Madison WI we have a unique opportunity in the next year. The entire City Council is up for election along with the Mayor and the County Executive. We have a local network called MADWORC. We need to educate each and every candidate on worker coops. We need to hold a candidate forum (or more than one) for each race. We need to make worker cooperatives part of the discussion on how to create a sustainable local economy. We need to get candidates to commit (or at least consider) the idea of worker co-operative development as a way to move the local economy forward.
We need to do this in every community where we currently have active worker co-operatives: Minneapolis, San Fransisco, Austin, Portland, Oakland, Berkeley, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, etc. If we can get the cities where we are already active on board in five years, we can start moving to other MSAs.
I’m not talking about partisan politics. I am talking about educating the elected officials and the planning bureaucrats. I am talking about raising the profile of worker co-operatives. Showing the success of Mondragon and connecting their success to our success. What local public official would love to support the development of a business that puts locals to work, improves the community, and will never leave?
We have to start today.
Please review the comments on some previous posts. Mark Rego-Monteiro has been making systemic comments on my series on the distributism, syndicalism and the future of the movement. I will be responding to his comments as well and hope that you do too!