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Community Currency Magazine - October 20, 2014 - 06:04
New UK volunteering / collaboration platform incorporating a sort of currency system. http://www.hotpothq.com/


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Categories: Economics

Dan Amerman: Will Our Private Savings Be Sacrificed To Pay Down The Public Debt?

Chris Martenson - October 19, 2014 - 08:06

Recently, an article by Daniel Amerman caught our attention. Titled Is There A “Back Door” Method For The Government To Pay Down The Federal Debt Using Private Savings?, it details the process known as financial repression, where sovereign debts are slowly paid off by syphoning private savings from an unaware populace.

In this week's podcast, Chris discusses the mechanics of the process, as well as its probability, with Dan.

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Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/18 - Rental America, Sao Paulo Suffers Worst Drought In Decades

Chris Martenson - October 18, 2014 - 11:12
  • Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa
  • Europe’s Fatal Flaw Laid Bare For All To See. Again.
  • Life in Quarantine for Ebola Exposure: 21 Days of Fear and Loathing
  • Designer viruses could be the new antibiotics
  • Unable To Meet The Deductible Or The Doctor
  • Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details
  • Sao Paulo suffers worst drought in decades
  • Pest-Plagued Florida Scientists Design 3-D Printed Insect Traps

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Fuzzy Numbers - Crash Course Chapter 18

Chris Martenson - October 17, 2014 - 18:58

What if it turned out that our individual, corporate and government decision-making was based on misleading, if not provably false, data?

As we detail in this latest chapter of the Crash Course series, that's exactly the case today with the key indicators (inflation, GDP, employment, deficits, etc) our central planners are using to guide the future of the global economy.

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

LA School District Uses Its Spending Power to Support Local Farms, Workers’ Rights, and Kids’ Nutrition

This article is presented as part of New Economy Week, five days of conversation around building an economy that works for everyone. Today’s theme is “The New Economy Is Close to Home.”

Photo by Brittany Randolph / Flickr.

We face two equally urgent and significant crises: rising inequality and climate change. Rising inequality is not only morally unacceptable; it also hinders economic growth. Climate change is already impacting every part of the country, with low-income communities and communities of color getting hit first and worst. Fighting these two battles will require a fundamental economic shift that will push us to rethink how our economy is built and where it is grown. Building strong local economies combats inequality because it creates and maintains wealth in local communities, and is an underused tool in the fight against climate change.

Since 2011, the school district has redirected roughly $60 million to local farmers and workers.

Local economies can be strengthened by creating demand for goods and services through the large purchasing power of local institutions, such as local government and “anchor institutions,” like hospitals, universities, etc.

Instead of outsourcing services and goods to companies that are out of state or even out of the region, those institutions can look locally to meet their needs. Local businesses then spring up to meet that demand for food, services, and products, and wealth is created and maintained on the local level, which leads to more equitable, sustainable growth. Developing local economies is particularly important for low-income communities and communities of color, who suffer from underinvestment and a lack of resources.

In California the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district, uses its purchasing power to support small businesses and farmers, and encourage high-quality job creation. In 2011, the board of education made formal its preference for local products, those that originate within 200 miles. Shortly afterward, the school district signed the “Good Food Purchasing Pledge,” a cross-sector initiative developed by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council that looks to improve access to healthy, affordable, sustainable food. The L.A. city government has also signed the pledge.

Since 2011, the school district has doubled the percentage of its food budget that it spends locally, resulting in roughly $60 million redirected to local farmers, processors, warehouses, distributors, and workers. The Good Food Purchasing Pledge is the first procurement policy—rules related to how organizations process goods and services—to tie better nutrition and local sourcing to local economic development, worker’s rights, fair wages, and workplace safety.

The strong purchasing power of the school district helps create jobs and keep resources within communities. For example, Buena Vista Food Products, located in Azusa, a largely Latino city in east Los Angeles County, doubled its business from a district order for 4 million servings of baked goods. Last year, the company created 100 jobs and invested $1 million in equipment.

Laura Trujillo, Buena Vista’s president, told the L.A. Times, "We haven't sold this much in the history of our company. Working with L.A. [schools] has completely changed the way we purchase and produce."

"We're trying to both transform the food supply chain and create good jobs."

The procurement pledge ranks suppliers on a point system based on five categories: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition. The more values a supplier practices, the higher the rank. Small local farms with fair-trade certification or social responsibility policies earn additional points, as do unionized farms or worker-owned cooperatives. A small, local, organic, unionized farm would score even higher. Points are also given to businesses run by women, people of color, and veterans.

"Our focus has been on public institutions that serve high-need populations," said Alexa Delwiche, managing director of the L.A. Food Policy Council. "We're trying to both transform the food supply chain and create good jobs, while also serving populations that have the least access to highest-quality foods."

Other cities and states are also providing incentives for local purchasing. Forty-six states have passed or proposed some kind of farm-to-school legislation. L.A.’s pledge, however, goes beyond just farms and is the gold standard of using purchasing power to support local economies.

Changing how demand is created and where supply is provided keeps opportunity localized, which allows low-income communities and communities of color to participate in green entrepreneurship, job creation, and wealth building. As seen in Los Angeles, equitable growth through localizing procurement and economic development is good for the economy, communities, and the climate.

J. Mijin Cha is an Associate Director at PolicyLink and a participant of The OpEd Project Global Policy Solutions Greenhouse.

This article was produced by a partnership between YES! Magazine and the New Economy Coalition as a part of the second annual New Economy Week, an event exploring what it will take to build an economy that works for people, place, and planet. To learn more, visit New Economy Week.

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Categories: Economics

Beating Climate Change by Retooling the Economy—The Story Begins in Navajo Country

Photo by Scott* / Flickr.

“I grew up without running water,” Nichole Alex, a young woman from Dilkon, Ariz., says in a video released by the activist group Black Mesa Water Coalition. Alex grew up on the Navajo reservation in the rural Black Mesa region of Arizona, where for decades a controversial coal mine emptied the region’s aquifer, leaving local wells dry.

Many climate justice activists are refusing to be limited by the “jobs or the environment” dichotomy.

“I grew up traveling 20 miles to gather water,” Alex continues. “That’s not fair, that my community is being sacrificed to power the valley here.”

In 1970, the Peabody Coal Company began mining on the reservation. Although tribal members were initially enthusiastic about the jobs the mine would provide, over time the relationship grew rocky. The company built a coal slurry pipeline that cut straight through the reservation and pumped billions of gallons of water from the Navajo Aquifer. Peabody mixed the water with coal and pumped the fluid mixture to a power plant in Nevada where the coal was burned to generate electricity for the nearby cities of Phoenix and Tucson, as well as other parts of the Southwest. But local people like Alex were left without access to water.

It’s a story echoed around the country: From the East Bay in California to the mountains of Appalachia, fossil fuel companies have drilled, burned, and mined their way into towns, cities, and rural areas—especially communities of color, as well as indigenous and low-income ones—disrupting the lives of people and damaging the environment.

But local residents have fought back. In 2001, Navajo and Hopi youth created the Black Mesa Water Coalition to stop the depletion of the Navajo Aquifer. They educated their peers and neighbors about the problem, and eventually persuaded the Navajo Tribal Council to cut off Peabody Coal’s access to the aquifer. That work, combined with a lawsuit that charged Peabody with violation of the Clean Air Act, helped to force the shutdown of the Black Mesa coal mine in 2005.

The problem with that outcome was that it left many residents of the reservation without jobs. About 300 Navajo and Hopi people had worked for Peabody, according to the advocacy group Cultural Survival . Efforts by the Black Mesa Water Coalition and its allies to create green jobs through traditional livelihoods, like wool-making and farming, have made only a small dent in the unemployment rate, which hovers around 50 percent. Furthermore, the land where the coal mine had been is not suitable for living or farming.

“Our economic system is fundamentally opposed to a livable future.”

The story of Black Mesa illustrates a realization that is sweeping through the network of organizations, individuals, and coalitions working to fight global warming: While the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, simply shutting down these industries leaves workers and their families behind, and often result in a familiar conflict over “jobs versus the environment.” That in turn prevents many workers and low-income groups from joining the fight against climate change—something movement leaders say they cannot afford.

The late Tony Mazzocchi, a labor leader with roots in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, advocated the rejection of this dichotomy and called on environmentalists to lobby for what he deemed a “just transition” in situations when environmental policies eliminate jobs. As the Institute for Policy Studies’ Chuck Collins recently wrote in YES!, a just transition “would offer benefits far beyond the pitiful job retraining programs included in trade agreements like NAFTA.”

Now, many climate justice activists are picking up on Mazzocchi’s idea and refusing to be limited by the “jobs or the environment” dichotomy. Among them is Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan, co-director of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. The alliance is a network of 35 organizations working at the intersection of job creation and environmental protection in places like Black Mesa, where residents have been resisting oil rigs, gas wells, and coal plants, in some cases for decades. These organizations create projects that provide stable livelihoods, protect fragile environments, and, ultimately, help speed the transition away from fossil fuels.

“The central solutions to address the climate crisis are not actually going to come from looking up and counting carbon in the atmosphere,” Mascarenhas-Swan said. “They are going to come from remaking the economy, which is the root of this struggle.”

“We need an economy that restores the health of our people and the health of our land.”

Few have thought more about just how to go about doing that than the 130 member organizations in the New Economy Coalition, which are a part of some would call the “new economy movement.” For many years, these groups have been building worker-owned cooperatives, land trusts, and community financial institutions, all designed to keep wealth local and provide good jobs. Eli Feghali, the coalition’s director of communications and online organizing, says that his members are starting to converge on the same vision as climate justice organizers.

“Folks have been imagining alternatives to capitalism for centuries,” Feghali said. “But a new context is emerging, the center of which is the climate crisis. Our economic system is fundamentally opposed to a livable future.”

Feghali says new economy groups can contribute to the push for a just transition by helping groups like the Black Mesa Water Coalition start worker-owned cooperatives and by lobbying for policies that support cooperative economies.

The new economy movement has some work to do in the way of diversity and representation of people of color and those from low-income areas, Feghali acknowledges. But, he says, “the good news is that these groups are already building alternatives and providing leadership.”

That leadership can been seen back in Arizona, where the Black Mesa Water Coalition is moving forward on a 1- to 5-megawatt solar power plant proposed for the site of the abandoned coal mine. And here’s where new economy ideas come in: The coalition hopes the facility will be owned and controlled by the Navajo people and will provide reliable jobs.

“We were once the battery for the Southwest [with our coal production],” said Roberto Nutlouis, the Black Mesa Water Coalition’s green economy coordinator. “Why not convert these reclaimed lands into something more sustainable and healthy for our community?”

The proposed project would use the money made from the utility-scale solar plant to create local reinvestment funds that would then support wool production and food sovereignty projects, whereas Peabody’s profits mostly benefitted faraway shareholders.

“There’s a deeper way of valuing things, beyond a capitalist way,” Nutlouis said. “We need an economy that restores the health of our people and the health of our land.”

If efforts like this work in Black Mesa, they could help to blaze a trail out of the climate crisis that workers can get behind.

Mary Hansen wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Mary has a hard time staying in one place but is also known to write, edit, and be a die-hard Steelers fan. She is an online reporting intern at YES!

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Categories: Economics

After Years Without a Grocery Store, Greensboro Neighbors Are Building One Themselves—And They’ll Own It

This article is presented as part of New Economy Week, five days of conversation around building an economy that works for everyone. Today’s theme is “The New Economy Is Close to Home.”


A still from a video in which residents of northeast Greensboro speak about their support for the Renaissance Food Co-op.

In the late 1990s, the local Winn Dixie that had served the neighborhoods around Philips Avenue for many years closed down. Winn Dixie and other large grocery chains had divided up market territory, resulting in the closing of some stores despite their profitability. The loss of this Winn Dixie turned Northeast Greensboro into a food desert.

For more than 15 years, there were many efforts to lure a new grocery store into the space. However, while the store would be profitable, it wouldn’t be profitable enough to satisfy the demands of the shareholder-based economy of a large corporation. Fed up with essentially begging for access to affordable, quality food, residents of this predominantly African-American and low-income neighborhood decided to open their own grocery store.

After learning about cooperative businesses, they decided to open a community-owned grocery store. The store would meet local residents’ needs for access to quality food and dignified, well-paid jobs. And now it’s going to happen. When the Renaissance Community Cooperative opens in 2015, it will be a conventional grocery store (like a Food Lion or Kroger) where wages start at $10 per hour.

Can cooperatives like the Renaissance Community Co-op play a role in making affordable food accessible to low-income communities? Can they provide well-paid jobs to communities that desperately need them? Can they create community wealth in some of our most blighted neighborhoods?

There are those who believe they cannot do these things because cooperatives will not work unless your community is wealthy enough, educated enough, and white enough.

But the Renaissance Community Cooperative is showing everyone that cooperatives can and will be used to solve these problems. Indeed, the struggle that Renaissance is undertaking draws on the rich history of cooperative economic development found in poor communities of color. This history has been beautifully unearthed by author Jessica Gordon Nembhard in her recent book Collective Courage.

So, while the residents in northeast Greensboro just wanted a grocery store, they are doing something much bigger and more important. They are demonstrating that communities of color, while dismissed by some as inadequate, have the power and ability to develop their own economic future.

Dave Reed is a community and cooperative organizer at the Fund for Democratic Communities.

This post was written for the New Economy Coalition’s second annual New Economy Week, a collaboration between YES! Magazine and the New Economy Coalition. The project explores what it will take to build an economy that works for people, place, and planet. To learn more, visit New Economy Week.

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Categories: Economics

Day 5 of New Economy Week: The New Economy Is Close to Home

This article was produced in partnership with the New Economy Coalition as part of the 2014 New Economy Week. Each day this week, YES! will publish articles responding to different topic prompts. Click here for more info.

Boxes of jade beans are ready to be auctioned off at the Chesterhill Produce Auction in Chesterhill, Ohio, on Thursday, October 24, 2013. Photo by Brooke Herbert Hayes.

Prompt 5: The New Economy is close to home.

Our current economy is undermining our aspirations for a democratic society and it seems unlikely that national governments are going to turn it around any time soon. But there are many examples of bold action emerging from local and regional contexts. From Richmond, Calif., to Jackson, Miss., people are organizing to build local power and are seeing major victories that could point the way to a new economy. How do we support and encourage work on the local level?

Our feature articles provide some insight:

For more perspectives, visit the New Economy Coalition.

Want more? Here are some articles we’ve published at YES! on themes that related to this conversation:

Back to the New Economy Week main page.

This project is a collaboration between the New Economy Coalition and YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/17 - Warehouse Empire, FBI Director: Let Us Spy On You

Chris Martenson - October 17, 2014 - 08:03
  • FBI director to citizens: Let us spy on you
  • Obama May Name ‘Czar’ to Oversee Ebola Response
  • Jet that flew ebola victim lands in Lihue
  • Gold Prices Since 9/11
  • Warehouse Empire
  • 3-D Printed Car From Start To Finish In Less Than Two Days
  • Growing Fruit in a Nuthouse: Designing Our Orchards for Economic Collapse and Climate-Destabilization

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

The Lost Art of Sausage Making

Chris Martenson - October 17, 2014 - 07:12

The basics of DIY sausage making and a bit of history to this now uncommon process of home meat processing and storage.

http://gameandgarden.com/cooking/the-lost-art-of-sausage-making/

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Categories: Economics

Off the Cuff: Market Mayhem

Chris Martenson - October 16, 2014 - 18:12

In this week's Off the Cuff podcast, Chris and Alasdair MacLeod discuss:

  • The Market Meltdown
    • What the heck just happened?
  • The Next Round of Bailouts
    • If you hate the problem, wait till you see the solutions
  • Gold
    • Ready for a return to the limelight?
  • Ebola
    • Is the media selling us too much fear?

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Day 4 of New Economy Week: Combating Climate Change Without Leaving Anyone Behind

This project was produced in partnership with the New Economy Coalition as part of the 2014 New Economy Week. Each day this week, YES! will publish articles responding to different topic prompts. Click here for more info.

Highlander Center staff and Appalachian Transition Fellows don helmets in preparation for a trip into a mine at the Coal Mine Museum in Benham, Ky. Photo by Catherine Moore.

Prompt 4: Combating climate change without leaving anyone behind.

Powerful interests divide communities by presenting a false choice between good jobs and a healthy environment. But the new economy rejects the idea that there isn’t enough to go around. The climate science is clear: we have to move quickly to a renewable energy economy. But we have to also move in the right direction by making sure that those people who have been employed and exploited by polluting industries are not left behind. How do we transition to an economy powered by renewable energy without leaving behind these workers, their families, and everyone who depends on them?

Our feature articles provide some insight:

For more perspectives, visit the New Economy Coalition.

Want more? Here's a sampling of articles we’ve published at YES! related to this topic:

Back to the New Economy Week main page.

This project is a collaboration between the New Economy Coalition and YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.

Categories: Economics

Good Jobs or a Healthy Planet? We Can Have Both

This article is presented as part of New Economy Week, five days of conversation around building an economy that works for everyone. Today’s theme is “Combating Climate Change Without Leaving Anyone Behind.”

Demonstrators in Richmond, Calif., hold signs demanding both "power without pollution" and "energy without injustice." Photo by Peg Hunter / Flickr.

We are heading toward a potentially severe clash between environmentalists who advocate for reducing carbon emissions and community and labor activists who are most concerned about jobs, racial equity, and reducing wealth inequality.

Our urgency about the climate catastrophe does not trump equity concerns.

Both the climate crisis and the wealth gap are deepening—and both will require aggressive social movements. We can either pull together to work toward a systematic “just transition”—a transition, that is, that satisfies both groups—or we can be pitted against each other by corporate interests.

I spent the summer interviewing labor, environmental and community justice activists and thinkers about the rift for a lengthy article on this topic in The American Prospect. Many of them invoked the late labor leader Tony Mazzocchi—described by biographer Les Leopold as “the Rachel Carson of the American workplace.”

Mazzocchi believed that, for the environmental movement to succeed, it must advocate for a “just transition” for workers displaced by environmental protections. That transition would offer benefits far beyond the pitiful job retraining programs included in trade agreements like NAFTA.

Happily this concept of a just transition has been embraced and further developed by many in the climate justice movement. The Climate Justice Alliance has pointed to places like Richmond, Calif., home of Chevron refineries, the coalfields of Kentucky, and the Black Mesa reservation in Arizona, as having been exploited by the fossil fuel industry. They are pressing for just transition policies at the community and national level.

“Fear keeps U.S. working people from looking to the future.”

The question of a just transition extends beyond U.S. borders, and is further along across the Atlantic. In England, the debate over growth is more part of the political discourse and Labor Party Leader Ed Milliband was spotted reading Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth. In France, a “degrowth movement” has pressed lawmakers to pursue a “power down” agenda—in other words, policies that reduce our society’s thirst for energy, such as incentives for improved insulation.

In Germany, the labor movement is a full partner in the transition to decentralized and renewable energy, especially in the country’s post-Fukishima rejection of nuclear power. This is in part because workers in Germany already have a strong social safety net. So if they lose their jobs during the transition away from fossil fuels, they will not lose their income, homes, or basic security.

As Joe Uehlein, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, has said, “Fear keeps U.S. working people from looking to the future.”

Those of us in the climate justice movement have to appreciate that our urgency about this catastrophe does not trump equity concerns. If we really want to fix the environment, then we need to join coalitions with organizations that focus on changing our economic system too.

The environmental movement must become a new economy movement that advocates for full employment, a just transition for workers, and job-boosting public investment in education, infrastructure, and research.

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is a member of the New Economy Working Group and author of “Making a Living on a Living Planet,” in the October Issue of The American Prospect.

This post was written for the New Economy Coalition’s second annual New Economy Week, a collaboration between YES! Magazine and the New Economy Coalition. The project explores what it will take to build an economy that works for people, place, and planet. To learn more, visit New Economy Week.

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Categories: Economics

Interviewed: Sharing Cities Fellow and TEDx Speaker M. Andre Primus

Shareable Magazine - October 16, 2014 - 07:59

Recently, M. Andre Primus gave a TEDx talk where he described the sharing economy as what happens when you love your neighbor as yourself. A Sharing Cities Fellow, Primus founded RocShare, in Rochester, New York, to grow the local sharing economy. His goal is to make Rochester a sharing town by connecting people, community organizations and sharing businesses.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/16 - Ebola Fight Continues In Dallas, Amish Farmers Reinventing Organic Agriculture

Chris Martenson - October 16, 2014 - 07:15
  • Disaster Declaration Planned for Ebola Fight
  • Cheney: Next attack on US will be ‘something far more deadly’ than 9/11
  • Ted Butler’s Silver Price Outlook – Why This Time Could Be Different
  • Paul Craig Roberts on Washington’s revolving door & Martenson on collapsing oil prices
  • New Generator Powered Solely By Heat, Not Fuel
  • Lockheed Martin's new fusion reactor can change humanity forever
  • Observation of abundant heat production from a reactor device and of isotopic changes in the fuel
  • The Amish Farmers Reinventing Organic Agriculture

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Fair.coop: Using Cryptocurrency to Bring Economic Justice to the World

Shareable Magazine - October 16, 2014 - 06:49

Imagine an online cooperative that supports economic equality around the world and is free from state control. This is the vision for Fair.coop. First envisioned by Enric Duran, cofounder of the Catalan Integral Cooperative, Fair.coop is an extension of peer-to-peer values, open cooperation, and hacker ethics. If Fair.coop's lofty ideals are realized in a concrete way, it could prove revolutionary.

Categories: Economics

7 winter vegetables to add to your plate

Chris Martenson - October 15, 2014 - 15:01

A number of great winter vegetables to seek out this winter. Also look for a winter CSA that might supply you with delicious veg.

http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/green-food/7-winter-vegetables-add-your-plate/

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Categories: Economics

Day 3 of New Economy Week: Building a Movement That Can Win

This article was produced in partnership with the New Economy Coalition as part of the 2014 New Economy Week. Each day this week, YES! will publish articles responding to different topic prompts. Click here for more info.

Photo from Shutterstock.

Prompt 3: Building a movement that can win.

Let’s be real. Those who have benefited from the concentration of wealth and power aren’t going to give up their power willingly. Fresh ideas for an alternative economy aren’t going anywhere without a social movement powerful enough to deliver real change despite opposition. The good news is that this movement is emerging. Our ideas and projects are resonating with people and even beginning to beat back industries that funnel wealth into the hands of a powerful few. But we can’t be content working at the margins. How do we build the kind of power we need to transform the economy?

Our feature articles provide some insight:

While worker-owned co-ops provide a significant chunk of employment in several European countries, in the United States we still have a ways to go. Fortunately, opportunities for growth are everywhere. 

National People's Action is training the next wave of progressive candidates for 2016. Here's how they could win.

For more perspectives, visit the New Economy Coalition.

Want more? Here's a sampling of articles we’ve published at YES! related to this topic:

"Listen to and work with your base to create a shared big-picture narrative."

His new book, "What Then Must We Do?" imagines how a new economic system might actually emerge, from the bottom up, in the next few decades.

The students organizing for climate justice on campuses today are drawing connections between the environment and social issues like debt, racism, and immigration. 

Taking on the climate emergency means: building just, local economies; paying back the climate debt owed to the poorest regions of the world; divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting in sustainable local economies.


Back to the New Economy Week main page.

This project is a collaboration between the New Economy Coalition and YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.

Categories: Economics

Three Moves for a Bigger, Stronger Worker-Owned Economy

This article is presented as part of New Economy Week, five days of conversation around building an economy that works for everyone. Today’s theme is Building a Movement that Can Win.”

Members of a worker-owned co-op trained by the Oakland-based group Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES). Photo courtesy of WAGES.

The face of local business has changed dramatically in recent decades as large companies have replaced neighborhood businesses. Remember your local barbershop? Chances are it’s been replaced by a Supercuts. Local burger joints? McDonalds. Your local drugstore? CVS or Walgreens.

Given the number of baby boomers, we have an opportunity to support retiring owners to sell to their valued employees.

Local business ownership is a critical economic option for people who lack formal education or access to capital. But today, large-scale absentee ownership abounds, and wages as a percent of gross domestic product are at their lowest level since 1948. People are paid so little that in Oakland, Calif., 45 percent of working adults don’t make enough to cover their family’s basic needs.

In contrast, worker-owned cooperatives bring tremendous benefits to workers, businesses, and the broader economy. They do this in many ways, but especially by increasing wages and benefits, reducing worker turnover and increasing business operational efficiency. Since they’re locally owned, they keep dollars in the local economy.

Employee-owned and democratically governed businesses already play a critical role in what we call the “new economy.” Yet there are only about 300 worker-owned cooperatives in the entire United States, according to data from the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and they average 11 workers each. In other parts of the world—like Italy, Spain, and Francecooperatives have grown to employ 5-10 percent of the workforce.

These places have higher indexes of social well-being in health, education, crime, and social participation. It turns out that when business decisions incorporate what is good for both the bottom line and for the workers, those decisions benefit not only the workers and their families, but also the entire communities in which they live.

By now, you’re hopefully convinced that significantly increasing America’s worker-owned cooperatives would be a really good thing. Here are three ways to make it happen:

1. Focus on existing businesses as well as startups.

There are multiple pathways to increasing worker ownership. Many efforts focus primarily on starting up new worker-owned cooperatives. That’s important! But, given the gains we need to make, we must also focus on existing businesses—both expanding existing worker co-ops and converting other businesses to worker ownership.

Given the number of retiring baby boomers, we have a huge opportunity to support retiring business owners to sell to their valued employees.

2. Develop a cooperative-friendly ecosystem.

We need to influence the ecosystem of job and business growth to make sure we have the necessary inputs—business expertise, trained workers, and capital—to create and expand worker-owned businesses. We’ll also need to increase demand for those businesses through policy and by influencing the buying patterns of consumers, businesses, and governments.

One of the biggest holes in the ecosystem is business expertise. New economy advocates must mobilize business people by finding and focusing on the intersection between those with a commitment to the new economy, and those with business expertise.

3. Apply targeted geographic investments.

With limited investment dollars, we can’t take a scattershot approach. We must target place-based investments based on how to best expand worker cooperatives in a given area. In cities or regions that already have strong worker co-ops (like the San Francisco Bay Area) we need strategic investment and an approach that aligns multiple actors and stakeholders with clear roles. In regions that are just getting started, we need to focus on replicating (and improving on) pioneering practices from other places.

The recession of 2008 sparked a renewed interest in worker-owned cooperatives, as communities sought out paths to a more resilient economy. This presents a critical opportunity. Let’s roll up our sleeves and focus on scaling up the models we already know work.

Alison Lingane is co-founder of Project Equity, which builds economic resiliency in low-income communities by increasing worker ownership. Alison has more than 20 years experience in community-based work and scaled social ventures. She has her B.A. from Harvard University, her MBA from the Haas School of Business, and is currently an Echoing Green fellow.

This post was written for the New Economy Coalition's second annual New Economy Week, an event exploring what it will take to build an economy that works for people, place, and planet. To learn more, visit New Economy Week.

Read this next:

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 10/15 - Eurozone Factory Output Slumps, Healthcare Costs Set To Rise

Chris Martenson - October 15, 2014 - 06:59
  • Health Premiums And Costs Set To Rise For Workers Covered At Work
  • Many insured struggle with medical bills, poll shows
  • Obamacare website won’t reveal insurance costs for 2015 until after election
  • France's Sapin rules out 2015 budget changes
  • Italy says will not increase planned deficit cut in 2015 budget
  • Eurozone Factory Output Slumps
  • ZEW doesn't rule out recession in Germany
  • More QE might be appropriate if U.S. economy faltered- Fed's Williams
  • Draghi's 'whatever it takes' pledge helped save euro, ECB says
  • Americans face post-foreclosure hell as wages garnished, assets seized

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics