The Promise of Worker-Ownership

I work with workers in crisis. I’ve been to hundreds of factories across the globe that were being closed. I’ve observed the damage losing work causes, the anguish of workers whose lives were being destroyed, and the communities torn apart in the aftermath.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon has not only become more common, it threatens to become the norm. Globalization and the decline of the traditional employer-employee relationship are driving anxiety over the future of work and the threat to shared prosperity to the fore of policy concerns, just as they were as the Department of Labor’s Future of Work symposium last December. With income already persistently stagnant and inequality at staggering levels, waves of technology shocks have the potential to increase the instability of large swaths of the workforce.

However, I am not just an observer of crisis, I’m an investor in workers overcoming their crises. Of the hundreds of businesses I’ve been to that were facing closure, all were reopened by their workers, with the vast majority becoming successful worker-owned cooperatives with jobs, lives and communities saved in the process.

This is exactly what happened at the New Era Windows cooperative. In 2008, a Chicago window factory was closed and all the workers were fired without their due severance or benefits. The workers occupied the factory in protest, and they were overwhelmed with support from their community and around the country. Three years later, those same workers approached us with a new dream: to buy the factory and reopen it as a cooperative.

Read the full article at the U.S. Department of Labor Blog


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