Solidarity News Flashes
Green Worker Cooperatives Receives Quarter Million for Reuse Coop
Sout Bronx, NY (USA) - Green Worker Cooperatives (GWC), an organization dedicated to creating worker-owned businesses capable of improving environmental conditions in the South Bronx, is the proud recipient of a $250,000 grant from the Kendeda Fund. Last spring they announced their goal of raising $700,000 in donations with another $200,000 in loans in order to launch the Bronx Building Materials Reuse Center Cooperative by this time next year. Thanks to the Kendeda Fund and an additional $11,000 from the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, Cooperative Home Care Associates (the Bronx’s first, and only, worker coop), and De La Salle Christian Brothers, GWC is well over a third of the way towards meeting their goal. When asked why they chose to give this major award to GWC, The Kendeda Fund’s executive director, Diane Ives, said “it’s imperative to link how we treat the environment with the economic drivers of our society, and Green Worker Cooperatives is an innovative way of doing just that. GWC has demonstrated the kind of leadership and vision that is important to invest in.”
What's the Big Idea?: Songs for the Coop Movement
Canada - Canadian musican Greg O’Neill has just released his first CD of original music, entitled “The Journey Back Home.” It is music in the singer-songwriter genre, from the lively and funky “Sea of Trouble” about New Orleans and the coop movement anthem “Big Idea,” to the love song “There Was a Time.” Proceeds from selling the CD will go towards a foundation which O’Neill has founded with his wife, Hazel Corcoran, and another coop activist called the Big Idea Rainbow Foundation. The object of the foundation is to promote the cooperative movement through popular culture. The overarching theme: cooperatives can save the world! To hear two sample songs and to order the CD, go to the Big Idea web site: www.emmett.ca/bigidea.
A Blossoming of Community-Controlled Budgeting
USA & Canada - Community initiatives to gain greater control over municipal budget processes and priorities are growing in North America. One of these is in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where the Latino community has launched a long-term Lawrence "City-Works Budget Campaign." They have drawn lessons directly from the participatory budget process developed in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Others include Davenport, Iowa, Springfield, Missouri, and Chicago, as well as Guelph and Toronto in Canada. The success of the latter has inspired an experiment in the city of Vancouver where "elementary school students use participatory budgeting to decide some of their school funding." An article on the subject was written recently by Josh Lerner, who is "facilitating an international participatory budgeting network and currently working on the New York Participatory Budgeting Initiative." He can be reached at email@example.com.
ICA Launches Online Co-operative Learning Centre
Canada - The Co-operative Learning Center (CLC) is a new collaborative online resource for cooperatives, cooperative educators and cooperative researchers worldwide. Initiated by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) it is a joint endeavor of the ICA, the International Labor Organization, and the British Columbia Institute for Co-operative Studies. The CLC is currently being developed as a multi-lingual, virtual resource center, providing access to a comprehensive and constantly evolving database of information on the effective use of the cooperative model as a tool to meet economic and social needs. A prototype website can be viewed at: www.learningcentre.coop.
Global Homeworkers Organize
Leeds, UK - There are millions of homebased workers around the world. Most are women who make or process things at home, either for intermediaries or agents or for their own customers and markets. Most are working informally, without any social or employment rights. On May 1st, 2006, homeworker organisations in Latin America, Europe and South Asia launched the new Federation of Homeworkers Worldwide (FHWW) to build solidarity between existing continental homeworker organizations and to demand equal treatment with all workers globally. The new FHWW aims to build a democratic, representative organisation, convening thirty years of homeworker organizing and advocacy into an international movement. For more information, see www.homeworkersww.org.uk.
Morales Deepens Bolivia's "Movement Toward Socialism"
Bolivia - During the early part of June 2006, Bolivia's
president Evo Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism (MTS) Party broadened
their campaign to transform the country, announcing a new political program
that calls for a "plural, participative, communitarian and representative
democracy, based on diversity of peoples," and "for the elimination
of all forms of colonialism, segregation and discrimination." The program,
called "Refounding Bolivia," also declares that natural resources are
"social property" and that their management falls to the state--a
model of "social economy" with room for private productive property
so long as it serves socially useful purposes. In a move to enact the land
reform elements of the new progam, Morales awarded titles to 24,864 square
kilometers (9600 square miles) of government land to peasants in the Santa Cruz
region. The redistribution was the first phase of a plan to distribute 77,000
square miles of government land during the next five years. Morales has also
promised to seize and redistribute privately owned land that was illegally
acquired, is unused, or is held for speculation.
Venezuela Initiates Cross-Border Cooperative Development
Adapted from "The Mouse on Steroids" by William Fisher, May 29, 2006, www.truthout.org.
Venezuela - Hugo Chavez is now proposing a second phase of the program to provide discount oil to low income communities in the U.S. He told a delegation of beneficiaries of the program that in addition to the 40% discount, only 30% would go towards Citgo's expenses and the remaining 30% would be set aside for a special local development fund to help unemployed in the communities to set up cooperatives. The program, according to the Venezuelan president, will be doubled next year from its current level of 40 million gallons. "No one should believe that this is just a momentary interest," Chavez told the group. "Leave at ease and tell your neighbors of the communities you represent that the program will continue; it has just begun."
Vermont Law Favors Employee-Owned Companies
R.I.P: The Burley Design Cooperative
Adapted from an article by Sherri Buri McDonald, Euguene Register-Guard, August 5, 2006.
Euguene, OR (USA) - On June 23, 2006, the financially struggling Burley Design Cooperative, best known for their high-quality bike trailers, filed papers with the state of Oregon converting the business from a coop to a privately-held corporation. In a letter to coop members, Burley's Board of Directors said that the changes "represent nothing less than a last-ditch attempt to save Burley―the jobs it provides for members, the contribution it makes to the community, and the excellence in product design and manufacturing that it represents." After three years of losses, including a $1.5 million loss last year, the Board warned that "without dramatic changes, by early fall we fear we will have to close Burley's doors―forever." At stake are the jobs of about 50 worker-owners, plus the jobs of 60 employees who have no ownership interest, and nearly $2 million in "retained dividends" invested by the coop's present and former members. The decision by a majority of members to ditch the coop structure marks the end of an era for Burley, operating a democratically-run cooperative since 1978.
Equal Exchange Offers First Worker Coop Certificate of Deposit
West Bridgewater, MA (USA) - Equal Exchange, a worker-owned and run cooperative specializing in the fair trade of coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar with cooperative producers in the Global South, has begun issuing Certificates of Deposit (CDs) as a tool to finance their operations and provide a cooperative savings opportunity for supporters. With a minimum purchase of $1000 and a three year term, the CDs are used to guarantee a low-cost loan to Equal Exchange from their partner in the project, Wainwright Bank. Investors recieve a competitive interest rate from the CD, while the cooperative is able to use the investment to leverage further development. What does this mean in concrete terms for farmers in the Global South? According to Equal Exchange, a $2000 investment could facilitate the purchase, at fair frade prices, of the entire coffee harvest of a 6-8 person Peruvian family farm. For more information, see www.equalexchange.coop, or call or email Alistair Williamson at (971) 404-5143 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Murray Bookchin, 1921-2006
Burlington, VT (USA) - Murray Bookchin, anarchist scholar, writer and teacher, and proponent of "social ecology," died at home in June at the age of 85. Bookchin was a long proponent of left libertarian ideas, tirelessly advocating for a revolutionary moral and political philosophy that sysnthesized elements of Marxist, anarchist, ecological and feminist thought. His numerous books and essays, including Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971), The Ecology of Freedom (1982), and The Limits of the City (1974) had a significant influence on portions of the New Left throughout the later part of the 20th Century. His book The Spanish Anarchists (1977) introduced many economic and social justice activists to the powerful and inspiring history of anarchist organization and cooperative economic development during (and leading up to) the Spanish Civil War. Bookchin's strong-willed intellectual approach led to many passionate debates throughout his years as a critic and thinker. Never afraid to provoke and challenge, Bookchin and his ideas ideas―even for those who disagree―have been important milestones in the further development of economic and social visions for justice.
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