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What Does It Take to Start a Worker Co-Op? A Practical Video Guide to Democratizing Our Economy

A new film asks whether practicing workplace democracy would be easier if our media gave us as many visions of collaboration as they do of competition?

'What if we were encouraged to participate in our communities as much as we are pushed to purchase stuff?'

As Sarah van Gelder pointed out recently, 2014 research by the Pew Center found that 78 percent of Americans believe that too much power is concentrated in the hands of a few huge companies. More than half—62 percent—believe our current economic system is rigged in favor of those with the most power.

That belief, backed by the reality of gaping inequality and downward pressure on most Americans’ wealth and wages has led many people to look for ways, not only to ameliorate the pain and pressures of business-as-usual, but to find new ways of doing business. Worker-owned cooperatives, where workers are offered a share in the company and a say in decision-making, are one way to make the workplace more democratic. The most successful cooperatives have a good record of reducing inequality and building local assets, but co-ops aren’t easy, and they aren’t for everybody.

A year ago, GRITtv and TESA the Toolbox for Education and Social Action teamed up to look more closely at what it takes for a worker-owned cooperative to get started, and to succeed. The result is Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time.

Would practicing workplace democracy and working together be easier if our media and our education system gave us as many visions of collaboration as they do of competition? What if we were encouraged to participate in our communities as much as we are pushed to purchase stuff? If we measured prosperity not by how high we could pile up resources, but how widely we could spread them out, would our heroes, not to mention our economy look different?

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We believe so. Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time is one contribution to a broader vision.

Visit grittv.org for more information on worker owned cooperatives, and how you could start, or transition your business to cooperative ownership.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders is the award-winning host and executive producer of The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally-syndicated TV and radio program that looks at real-life models of shifting power in the arts, economics and politics. Flanders founded the women’s desk at media watch group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and produced and hosted the radio program CounterSpin for a decade. She is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species. Flanders was named Most Valuable Multi-Media Maker of 2018 in The Nation’s Progressive Honor Roll, and was awarded the Izzy Award in 2019 for outstanding achievement in independent media.

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