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Beating the Drum for a New Economy

Shareable Magazine - October 1, 2014 - 07:00

New Economy Week: October 13-19th, 2014

On September 21, 400,000 people from all walks of life arrived in New York City for the People's Climate March. The slogan of the march was simply, “To change everything, we need everyone.”

The People’s Climate March was a powerful breakthrough, not just because practically everyone did show up, but because of the growing awareness among climate activists that we do need “to change everything.”

Categories: Economics

Workers in Maine Buy Out Their Jobs, Set an Example for the Nation

This article originally appeared at Truthout.

The Board of Island Employee Cooperative. Photo by Island Employee Cooperative / Facebook.

On remote Deer Isle, Maine, the movement for a more just and democratic economy won a major victory this summer. More than 60 employees of three retail businesses­—Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley—banded together to buy the stores and create the largest worker cooperative in Maine and the second largest in New England.

[The] jobs are democratically owned by the people who work and live there.

Now the workers own and run the businesses together under one banner, known as the Island Employee Cooperative(IEC). This is the first time that multiple businesses of this size and scope have been merged and converted into one worker cooperative—making this a particularly groundbreaking achievement in advancing economic democracy.

When the local couple that had owned the three businesses for 43 years began to think about selling their stores and retiring, the workers became concerned. The stores were one of the island's biggest employers and a potential buyer probably would not have come from within the community or maintained the same level of jobs and services. Only a worker buy-out could achieve stability.

Because these workers were trying to accomplish something historic, it took more than a year—and it wasn't always an easy road. But the workers' strength lay in their own determination, and in the ability to rely on a group of allies dedicated to growing the cooperative movement. The Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative (IRSSC) and the Cooperative Development Institute helped them develop their management, governance, legal, and financial structures. They were also able to secure financing from Maine-basedCoastal Enterprises and the Cooperative Fund of New England, both Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs). Without that dedicated technical assistance and available capital, it is doubtful the IEC would be here today.

While the creation of the IEC maintained dozens of decent paying jobs and a remote community's only nearby access to essentials such as groceries and prescription medications, it also points to a successful model that could be used across the country to expand ownership and wealth to regular working people. This experience shows that if only we had more resources to experiment with grounded, practical economic policies, we could create many more of the living-wage jobs and community-sustaining businesses we desperately need.

Worker cooperatives hold the promise of fundamentally addressing our longstanding economic woes.

The Great Recession has led many to consider better ways to organize our economy, as always happens during economic downturns. But the reality is that our economy, even during the "good times," has always been failing working people. So we need to think long term and change our strategies in order to build a durable, democratic, equitable and just economy.

The Great Recession in Maine

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, Maine has won back less than half of the jobs we lost (ranking us 46th among the states): We are second from the bottom for total job growth, and we have one of the highest numbers of part-time workers who want more employment but can't find it. Nearly one-third of unemployed Mainers have been looking for work for more than six months, which is more than twice the national average. And what little growth there has been has occurred almost exclusively in the Portland metro region, in far southern Maine.

But it's not as if our workers were prospering before the Great Recession.

Over the last 30 years, the incomes of the poorest Maine workers grew by only 27 percent, while incomes for the wealthiest Mainers jumped by 67 percent. Starting in the late '90s, Maine lost more manufacturing jobs per capita than any other state. Maine workers also have the lowest average incomes of all the New England states and, of Maine's 16 counties, 14 of them are among the poorest in the region. As a result, one in seven Mainers overall and more than one in five children live in poverty. Most shamefully, poverty characterizes more than one in four young children, and one in three in our poorest counties.

This is the first time that multiple businesses of this size and scope have been merged and converted into one worker cooperative.

In short, Maine's low wages, limited job prospects, deepening poverty and growing inequality are not just the result of the Great Recession; it is structural and long-standing. We've needed to change the way the economy works for quite a while. And that's exactly why strategies to create sustainable, democratic businesses like the Island Employee Cooperative are so critical.

A model for Maine and the nation

Worker cooperatives hold the promise of fundamentally addressing our longstanding economic woes. Because they give members an equal voice in the co-op's governance, a worker co-op will almost never pick up and leave its community. Those jobs are democratically owned by the people who work and live there.

In addition, in worker co-ops, employees have an incentive to work harder and smarter, because they benefit from an equitable share of the profits. And when a worker co-op is facing financial difficulty, the first response isn't to lay people off. That's because the worker-owners are sharing the risks and burdens of the business as well. Instead, members often come together to find democratic solutions to their problems, such as temporarily lowering wages or cutting hours for all workers, so that no one person has to lose their job. This is one of the major factors that also make worker co-ops more economically sustainable in low-income communities.

For the new worker-owners of the Island Employee Cooperative, the transformation into a co-op will, over time, create profound changes in their lives as they begin investing some of the business' profits into better wages and benefits—something that is extremely uncommon for those in the retail business. The co-op is also already collaborating with the Maine Community College System to deliver education programs on-site so that the workers can improve their knowledge and skills. While retail jobs are often depicted as low-wage and dead-end, these retail workers are now business owners who will learn to make many hard decisions together. And because IEC is one of the island's largest employers, the cooperative ownership model will make a tremendous impact on the community as many more families build wealth through democratic ownership.

That's a model we can and should scale up.

A new approach to economic development

Unfortunately, successful examples like the IEC are rare in the United States because worker cooperative development gets little to no support from city, state and federal governments. Instead, these institutions spend a fortune on economic development programs that create windfall profits for corporations, but very few sustainable, living-wage jobs.

We could create many more of the living-wage jobs and community-sustaining businesses we desperately need.

The way states have traditionally pursued economic development relies primarily on "chasing smokestacks" and dreaming up new tax giveaways for out-of-state corporations. That serves to benefit the 1% while leaving workers in the dust.

A less costly, more effective and more equitable strategy of focusing on worker co-op development would drive investments into grassroots initiatives for economic sustainability. Some support already exists: For example, New York City just passed its 2015 budget and is investing over $1 million in a comprehensive program to support the development of worker cooperatives , including directing existing business-development resources to be more supportive of worker co-ops. Ohio has provided small grants for feasibility studies and technical assistance to employees considering a cooperative buyout of their workplace, using federal funds that are available in every state (but utilized by only a half-dozen or so). Rural Cooperative Development Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture support state and regional groups that provide cooperative development services in rural areas (though not just to worker co-ops).

There are more examples of supportive policies, but they all amount to a tiny drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on typical economic development approaches that do little for working people.

In order to begin scaling up worker co-op development, we need to provide technical assistance and small pre-development grants to people starting co-ops within their own communities, make available better education on how to operate a cooperative, provide loan guarantees for groups who would otherwise struggle to access credit, and offer targeted, accountable tax incentives.

Communities across the country would benefit from more initiatives that support development of new co-ops, as well as converting existing businesses into worker-owned ones like the Island Employee Cooperative.

This approach would allow many more communities to sustain themselves, cultivate jobs with dignity, improve wages and help more people build wealth through democratic ownership. And then we might see a transformation into an economy that truly and sustainably serves the needs of all.

Rob Brown, Noemi Giszpenc, and Brian Van Slyke wrote this article for Truthout, where it originally appeared. Rob is the director of the Cooperative Development Institute's Business Ownership Solutions program, which assists companies attempting to become worker-owned cooperatives. Noemi is executive director of the Cooperative Development Institute. Brian works at The Toolbox for Education and Social Action, a worker cooperative that develops and distributes resources for social and economic change, such as Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives.

Read More:

Categories: Economics

Workers in Maine Buy Out Their Jobs, Set an Example for the Nation

This article originally appeared at Truthout.

On remote Deer Isle, Maine, the movement for a more just and democratic economy won a major victory this summer. More than 60 employees of three retail businesses­—Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley—banded together to buy the stores and create the largest worker cooperative in Maine and the second largest in New England.

[The] jobs are democratically owned by the people who work and live there.

Now the workers own and run the businesses together under one banner, known as the Island Employee Cooperative(IEC). This is the first time that multiple businesses of this size and scope have been merged and converted into one worker cooperative—making this a particularly groundbreaking achievement in advancing economic democracy.

When the local couple that had owned the three businesses for 43 years began to think about selling their stores and retiring, the workers became concerned. The stores were one of the island's biggest employers and a potential buyer probably would not have come from within the community or maintained the same level of jobs and services. Only a worker buy-out could achieve stability.

Because these workers were trying to accomplish something historic, it took more than a year—and it wasn't always an easy road. But the workers' strength lay in their own determination, and in the ability to rely on a group of allies dedicated to growing the cooperative movement. The Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative (IRSSC) and the Cooperative Development Institute helped them develop their management, governance, legal, and financial structures. They were also able to secure financing from Maine-basedCoastal Enterprises and the Cooperative Fund of New England, both Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs). Without that dedicated technical assistance and available capital, it is doubtful the IEC would be here today.

While the creation of the IEC maintained dozens of decent paying jobs and a remote community's only nearby access to essentials such as groceries and prescription medications, it also points to a successful model that could be used across the country to expand ownership and wealth to regular working people. This experience shows that if only we had more resources to experiment with grounded, practical economic policies, we could create many more of the living-wage jobs and community-sustaining businesses we desperately need.

Worker cooperatives hold the promise of fundamentally addressing our longstanding economic woes.

The Great Recession has led many to consider better ways to organize our economy, as always happens during economic downturns. But the reality is that our economy, even during the "good times," has always been failing working people. So we need to think long term and change our strategies in order to build a durable, democratic, equitable and just economy.

The Great Recession in Maine

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, Maine has won back less than half of the jobs we lost (ranking us 46th among the states): We are second from the bottom for total job growth, and we have one of the highest numbers of part-time workers who want more employment but can't find it. Nearly one-third of unemployed Mainers have been looking for work for more than six months, which is more than twice the national average. And what little growth there has been has occurred almost exclusively in the Portland metro region, in far southern Maine.

But it's not as if our workers were prospering before the Great Recession.

Over the last 30 years, the incomes of the poorest Maine workers grew by only 27 percent, while incomes for the wealthiest Mainers jumped by 67 percent. Starting in the late '90s, Maine lost more manufacturing jobs per capita than any other state. Maine workers also have the lowest average incomes of all the New England states and, of Maine's 16 counties, 14 of them are among the poorest in the region. As a result, one in seven Mainers overall and more than one in five children live in poverty. Most shamefully, poverty characterizes more than one in four young children, and one in three in our poorest counties.

This is the first time that multiple businesses of this size and scope have been merged and converted into one worker cooperative.

In short, Maine's low wages, limited job prospects, deepening poverty and growing inequality are not just the result of the Great Recession; it is structural and long-standing. We've needed to change the way the economy works for quite a while. And that's exactly why strategies to create sustainable, democratic businesses like the Island Employee Cooperative are so critical.

A model for Maine and the nation

Worker cooperatives hold the promise of fundamentally addressing our longstanding economic woes. Because they give members an equal voice in the co-op's governance, a worker co-op will almost never pick up and leave its community. Those jobs are democratically owned by the people who work and live there.

In addition, in worker co-ops, employees have an incentive to work harder and smarter, because they benefit from an equitable share of the profits. And when a worker co-op is facing financial difficulty, the first response isn't to lay people off. That's because the worker-owners are sharing the risks and burdens of the business as well. Instead, members often come together to find democratic solutions to their problems, such as temporarily lowering wages or cutting hours for all workers, so that no one person has to lose their job. This is one of the major factors that also make worker co-ops more economically sustainable in low-income communities.

For the new worker-owners of the Island Employee Cooperative, the transformation into a co-op will, over time, create profound changes in their lives as they begin investing some of the business' profits into better wages and benefits—something that is extremely uncommon for those in the retail business. The co-op is also already collaborating with the Maine Community College System to deliver education programs on-site so that the workers can improve their knowledge and skills. While retail jobs are often depicted as low-wage and dead-end, these retail workers are now business owners who will learn to make many hard decisions together. And because IEC is one of the island's largest employers, the cooperative ownership model will make a tremendous impact on the community as many more families build wealth through democratic ownership.

That's a model we can and should scale up.

A new approach to economic development

Unfortunately, successful examples like the IEC are rare in the United States because worker cooperative development gets little to no support from city, state and federal governments. Instead, these institutions spend a fortune on economic development programs that create windfall profits for corporations, but very few sustainable, living-wage jobs.

We could create many more of the living-wage jobs and community-sustaining businesses we desperately need.

The way states have traditionally pursued economic development relies primarily on "chasing smokestacks" and dreaming up new tax giveaways for out-of-state corporations. That serves to benefit the 1% while leaving workers in the dust.

A less costly, more effective and more equitable strategy of focusing on worker co-op development would drive investments into grassroots initiatives for economic sustainability. Some support already exists: For example, New York City just passed its 2015 budget and is investing over $1 million in a comprehensive program to support the development of worker cooperatives , including directing existing business-development resources to be more supportive of worker co-ops. Ohio has provided small grants for feasibility studies and technical assistance to employees considering a cooperative buyout of their workplace, using federal funds that are available in every state (but utilized by only a half-dozen or so). Rural Cooperative Development Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture support state and regional groups that provide cooperative development services in rural areas (though not just to worker co-ops).

There are more examples of supportive policies, but they all amount to a tiny drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on typical economic development approaches that do little for working people.

In order to begin scaling up worker co-op development, we need to provide technical assistance and small pre-development grants to people starting co-ops within their own communities, make available better education on how to operate a cooperative, provide loan guarantees for groups who would otherwise struggle to access credit, and offer targeted, accountable tax incentives.

Communities across the country would benefit from more initiatives that support development of new co-ops, as well as converting existing businesses into worker-owned ones like the Island Employee Cooperative.

This approach would allow many more communities to sustain themselves, cultivate jobs with dignity, improve wages and help more people build wealth through democratic ownership. And then we might see a transformation into an economy that truly and sustainably serves the needs of all.

Rob Brown, Noemi Giszpenc, and Brian Van Slyke wrote this article for Truthout, where it originally appeared. Rob is the director of the Cooperative Development Institute's Business Ownership Solutions program, which assists companies attempting to become worker-owned cooperatives. Noemi is executive director of the Cooperative Development Institute. Brian works at The Toolbox for Education and Social Action, a worker cooperative that develops and distributes resources for social and economic change, such as Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives.

Read More:

Categories: Economics

New Zealand politician pushing for 'Civics', a local government currency issued...

Community Currency Magazine - September 30, 2014 - 15:32
New Zealand politician pushing for 'Civics', a local government currency issued to pay for local services.


Citizens could be working for rates
www.stuff.co.nz
Ratepayers will one day pay their rates using a local currency if one city councillor has his way.
Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/30 - "No Right To Free Water" In Detroit, Your Apples Are A Year Old

Chris Martenson - September 30, 2014 - 08:40
  • Judge won't stop shut-offs, says no right to free water
  • Matt Taibbi on How Wall Street Hedge Funds Are Looting the Pension Funds of Public Workers
  • Breakthrough In Oil Sands Waste Treatment
  • Shocking NASA pics show Aral Sea basin now completely dry
  • El Niño Could Put an End to California's Drought Late This Year
  • Earth lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF
  • The Machine Is A Garden
  • Your Apples Are A Year Old

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Workers in Maine Buy Out Their Jobs, Set an Example for the Nation

Shareable Magazine - September 30, 2014 - 08:06

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission. Written by Rob Brown, Noemi Giszpenc, and Brian Van Slyke for Truthout. Photo credit: Alyce Santoro.

Categories: Economics

New Film Follows 18 Students As They Cycle the US to Support Coops

Shareable Magazine - September 30, 2014 - 07:19

In 2012, a group of 18 young people from Hampshire College set off to ride their bikes from San Francisco back home to Amherst, Massachusetts. Dubbed Co-Cycle, the group planned to visit coops along the route to learn from them and create a network of cooperatives. Three months and 15 states later, they arrived safely. Through it all, Emma Thatcher was there documenting the journey for the film To the Moon.

Categories: Economics

7 Reasons to Always Carry a Knife

Chris Martenson - September 30, 2014 - 07:03

A number of great ideas and reasons to always keep a pocket knife on your person.  And this goes out to all the prepared ladies out there too.  It does not need to be a huge Rambo survival knife but something practice and easy to use. 

http://www.survivalbased.com/survival-blog/5540/7-reasons-to-always-carry-a-knife-and-none-of-them-are-for-self-defense

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

EasyPrep Food Storage - Special Discount

Chris Martenson - September 30, 2014 - 06:41
35% Special Discount for PeakProsperity.com Readers

The ReadyStore is offering Peak Prosperity readers a special 35% discount on EasyPrep food storage packages.

Establishing a deep pantry and having extra long term food storage available is vital and a necessary step in building resilience into your life and ensuring you have adequate food energy for emergencies and difficult times.  The EasyPrep food storage bucket system makes this task simple and relatively cost effective.  With a variety of different foods to choose from, this special offer with help jumpstart your long term food preps and bring you better food security.

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Attempting To Sustain The Unsustainable

Chris Martenson - September 29, 2014 - 17:32

The general theme of the 2008 financial rescues engineered by the world's central banks was: Do more of the same.

The same things that got us into trouble -- namely too much debt and increasingly expensive energy -- simply increased after the 2008 crisis.

By a lot.

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Governor Brown Signs California's Neighborhood Food Act

Shareable Magazine - September 29, 2014 - 09:16

Photo credit: wayneandwax / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA. Article cross-posted from SELC.

On September 26, Governor Jerry Brown signed SELC's Neighborhood Food Act, AB 2561, and several other bills seeking to promote local and sustainable food systems in California.

Categories: Economics

How to Turn a Bus Stop into Art

Shareable Magazine - September 29, 2014 - 08:41

Photo credit: clarkmaxwell / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND.

Categories: Economics

Multi-Functional Plants for the Permaculture Garden

Chris Martenson - September 29, 2014 - 08:26

If you have a choice of planting a tree, shrub, vine, herbaceous plant, or groundcover that only has one function or another species that fills that desired function and also provides three other benefits, why wouldn't you plant the more functional species. In permaculture, elements of our designs should serve at least 3 functions. Many species can do much better than that. Below is a list of some of my favorite multi-functional plants that I am currently using on my permaculture site.

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Categories: Economics

Alternative Economy Movements Converge at Degrowth Conference

Shareable Magazine - September 29, 2014 - 08:14

Cross-posted from Bollier.org. Originally published on September 11, 2014.

Categories: Economics

ShareFest Porto Alegre Catalyzes Local Sharing Movement

Shareable Magazine - September 29, 2014 - 07:45

Attracting 450 people for a day of workshops, discussion, brainstorming, information-sharing, panels, art, music and dancing, ShareFest Porto Alegre was a great success. In true sharing style, the event was a group project from its inception, with organizers deciding that it should be as collaborative as possible, from the planning stages up.

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/29 - The Information War For Ukraine, Wind Energy Politics In Kansas

Chris Martenson - September 29, 2014 - 07:17
  • The U.S. Has No Banking Regulation, And It Doesn’t Want Any
  • Geneva Report warns record debt and slow growth point to crisis
  • The information war for Ukraine
  • The Dismal Science
  • Crackdown on Protests by Hong Kong Police Draws More to the Streets
  • Stunning Drone Clip Reveals Massive Size Of Hong Kong Protest
  • Feds: Butterfly Labs mined bitcoins on customers’ boxes before shipping
  • A Kansas twister: Wind energy politics complicate governor’s race

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Chris Kresser: Functional Health

Chris Martenson - September 28, 2014 - 14:42

In today's discussion, we explore the world of "functional medicine" and other approaches to health and wellness that offer potential to complement, or in cases, replace conventional western medical treatment. Some of these practices have been used by eastern cultures for millennia, others are just coming to light now. But the common thread in each is to focus on the biological uniqueness of each patient and use an evidence-based approach to identify and resolve the underlying condition -- rather than merely treating the symptoms, which modern health care (sometimes referred to instead as "sick care") is often guilty of.

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/28 - More On Arctic Oil Discovery, When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone

Chris Martenson - September 28, 2014 - 07:23
  • Economists: Your Parents Are More Important Than Ever
  • The Magic Number That Could End the Ebola Epidemic
  • When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone
  • Obamacare doctor networks to stay limited in 2015
  • The Alberta Tar Sands
  • Plowing Bedrock
  • A Rare Arctic Land Sale Stirs Concerns in Norway
  • Rosneft and Exxon discover Arctic oil

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/28 - Artic Oil Discovered, When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone

Chris Martenson - September 28, 2014 - 07:23
  • Economists: Your Parents Are More Important Than Ever
  • The Magic Number That Could End the Ebola Epidemic
  • When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone
  • Obamacare doctor networks to stay limited in 2015
  • The Alberta Tar Sands
  • Plowing Bedrock
  • A Rare Arctic Land Sale Stirs Concerns in Norway
  • Rosneft and Exxon discover Arctic oil

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics

Daily Digest 9/27 - Exxon Arctic Well Strikes Oil, Catalonian Leader Calls For Secession

Chris Martenson - September 27, 2014 - 09:11
  • This is What Heavy Multitasking Could Be Doing To Your Brain
  • The Federal Reserve's Artful Compassion for Households in 'Sobering' Condition
  • The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra
  • Leader of Catalonia Calls for Independence Vote
  • Builders Turn Focus to Housing Market
  • Under Pact, Russians to Give Gas to Ukraine
  • Paul Krugman's Errors And Omissions
  • Rosneft Says Exxon Arctic Well Strikes Oil

Join the conversation »

Categories: Economics