There are many ways to create jobs of the future. And foster Economic Liberation. Workers’ Self-Directed Enterprises, in form if not in name, have a history extending back to some of the world’s earliest societies. From modern mankind’s hunting parties, the origins of work can be traced to its most basic purpose: the enjoyment of the “fruits of one’s labor.” Before work became synonymous with employment, humankind survived in communities through the expenditure of time and energy so that the community could reap what they sowed. No less important than the end product, was the process of work and the psychosocial benefits derived by community members from participation in that process. While it may have been that way in the beginning, the history of work has shown that time does not always equal progress. Economies have integrated and advanced technologically, but over time a greater distance has opened between the worker’s produced surpluses (the excess of their output over what they themselves consume) and the workers who produced them.
There are many variations of self-management. In some variations, all the worker-members manage the enterprise directly through assemblies; in other forms, workers manage indirectly through the appointment of managers through election. Self-management may include worker supervision and oversight of an organization by elected bodies, election of specialized managers, or management without any specialized managers as such. The goals of self-management are to improve performance by granting workers greater autonomy in their day-to-day operations (self-directed activity), while reducing alienation and eliminating exploitation.
Self-management of an organization may coincide with employee ownership of that organization, but self-management can also exist in the context of organizations under public ownership, and to a limited extent within private companies in the form of co-determination and worker representation on the board of directors.
The USFWC established the Democracy at Work Institute, a seperate 501c3 organization, to ensure that worker cooperative development in economically and socially marginalized communities is adequately supported, effective, and strategically directed. It is the only national organization dedicated to building the field of worker cooperative development.
Through research, education and relationship-building, it meets the need for coordination of existing resources, development of standards and leaders, critical discussion of models and best practices, and advocacy for worker cooperatives as a community economic development strategy. The Institute brings both a birds-eye view of the national stage and an experiential on-the-ground understanding of cooperative business, making sure that our growing worker cooperative movement is both rooted in worker cooperatives themselves and branches out to reach new communities of worker-owners.
Labor Unions, Like a Federation of International Co-op Unions can be both a labor Union and Organizer of co-ops, and other work place democracy initiatives. Work place development with work place protection with no hostile work environments.
Richard D. Wolff has been a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst since 1981. He has been a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs, at the New School in New York since 2007. Wolff s major recent interests and publications include studies of US economic history to ascertain the basic structural causes of the current economic crisis and the examination of how alternative economic theories (neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian) understand and respond to the crisis in very different ways. His past work involves application of advanced class analysis to contemporary global capitalism. He has written, co-authored, and co-edited many books and dozens of scholarly and popular journal articles. His recent analyses of current economic events appear regularly in the webzine of the Monthly Review. In 2009, Capitalism Hits the Fan, the documentary on the current economic crisis, was released by Media Education Foundation.
There are many ways to create meaningful jobs, for those who want one. Since most jobs entertain hostile work environments with meaningless tasks, The Workers Rights Board strategy was developed as part of a protest at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) offices in the U.S. in June 1993. More than 7,000 people participated in this experiment, and 400 people were arrested. Jobs with Justice has continued to hold WRBs across the country on an as-needed basis to investigate abuse of workers’ rights. The boards are often composed of leading clergy, members of Congress, academics, retired judges and others who support workers’ rights. WRBs review worker complaints and often conduct public hearings. Employers encouraged to participate, and follow-up meetings with management are sought. The WRB then reports its findings in a public report and press conference and attempts to resolve any disputes between employers and employees. Prominent members of worker’s rights boards have included Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former labor leader Bill Fletcher, movie producer Robert Greenwald and others. In a new economy we can have the new third level economy we desire and eliminate poverty and exploitation.