Thursday, February 14, 2013

Self-management and Work as Alternatives to the Global Economic Crisis

Self-management and Work as Alternatives to the Global Economic Crisis

July 9-12, 2013
Joao Pessoa, Brazil

In an international context where the global capitalist crisis is increasingly affecting European countries, especially along the Mediterranean, the only response from governments has been to implement the usual austerity measures. These austerity measures,tried and tested in other parts of the world, have, yet again, not only failed to regenerate economies, but have led to further impoverishment, structural unemployment, marginalization and insecurity for the majority of who must work to earn a living. In response, large protest movements have begun to emerge in the “developed” countries that are feeling the effects of the crisis the most, reinforcing the need for changes in the management of the economy that not only contemplate the welfare of workers, but also assure that its management rest in their hands..

In the so-called “developing” countries, particularly in Latin America, social movements, people’s organizations and labor movements have been developing self-managed organizations at a grassroots level. Such is the case of the worker-recuperated enterprises in various South American countries, and other forms of workers’ control, both urban and rural. In some instances, these movements have gained some recognition and support at a governmental level, bringing into question the role of the state and the relationship between state power and the autonomy of popular movements: on the one hand the state can be a potential facilitator of the processes of workers’ control, but on the other hand it can be seen as an antagonistic instrument of traditional power with the potential to limit the autonomy of self-managed organizations.

The Fourth International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy” seeks to explore these and other questions relating workers’ struggles from different perspectives and national contexts. It seeks to provide space for discussion and debate using the experiences of workers’ control and self-management as a point of departure, bringing together academics, social activists, and workers. Together with worker-recuperated enterprises, cooperatives, labor movements and organizations, social movements, political groups, and academics, among others, we have been co-developing the International Gathering and its themes
with representatives from over 20 countries that have participated in our previous three gatherings. We reiterate here what we emphasized in previous encuentros: while in uneven ways perhaps, workers are undoubtedly inventing alternatives that are not only limited to the economic, but that extend out into wider cultural processes as well. Based on non-capitalist relations of production, these processes have increasingly been opening up spaces for prefigurative politics. Moreover, these alternative economic institutions are affording workers room for discussing issues such as internal power and gender structures, as well as the relationship between workers, workplaces, and their surrounding communities. These processes, visible for example in the recuperated factories, workers’ cooperatives, and micro-enterprises of the world, although still incipient, show that workers can indeed self-manage a more humane and sustainable alternative than what is offered by corporate globalization.

The Fourth International Gathering will be held in the town of João Pessoa in the state of Paraíba in northeastern Brazil, and hosted by the Incubator for Social Enterprises (INCUBES), at the Universidade Federal da Paraiba, and the Programa Facultad Abierta (Open Faculty Program) of the University of Buenos Aires.

History of the International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy”

The International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy,” had is its first encuentro in Buenos Aires in July 2007 under the theme “Self-management and Distribution of wealth.” It was organized by the Open Faculty Program of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires, in conjunction with academic institutions, social organizations, and workers in Argentina and around the world. The International Gatherings, have emerged into a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences between academics, activists, and workers. These ideas center on the possibilities and challenges of self-management; the regeneration of a political, economic, and social project by the working class and social movements; as well as critical discussion and analyses of the practices of academic research focusing on self-management and the workers’ economy..

The Argentine experience of workers’ control and self-management provided a solid basis for discussion for the first encuentro in 2007. These discussions took on an international nature by the second and third encuentros (held in Buenos Aires in 2009, and in Mexico City in 2011) which explored, and learned from, the different experiences of the working class and social movements around the world. As an ultimate objective, they contemplated on an alternative economic, social and political project from that which neoliberal global capitalism presents. In this sense the themes and discussion topics of the International Gatherings became more diverse with each new encuentro, expanding to different areas of social struggle and critical thinking, yet still remaining true to the spirit suggested by the title of the International Gatherings: how to think about, debate and construct an economy emerging from workers themselves and encompassing workers’ self-management.

Thematic areas:

Proposals for panels and paper presentations may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following thematic areas:

1.         Analysis of capitalist management of the economy and proposals for self-management
2.         The new crisis of global capitalism: Analysis from the perspective of the workers’ economy
3.         The historical trajectory of self-management: From traditional communities to labor movements
4.         Actual practices of self-management today: Possibilities and challenges. (Including, but not limited to: worker-recuperated enterprises, cooperatives, and attempts at self-management by indigenous communities, peasants and social movements)
5.         Self-management and gender: Creating democracy
6.         Analysis of the socialist experience: Past and future
7.         The challenges of trade union experiences in neoliberal global capitalism.
8.         Informal, precarious, and degrading employment: Social exclusion or reconfiguration of labor in global capitalism?
9.         New movements in response to the global economic crisis: Perspectives from the struggle for self-management
10.       Challenges facing popular governments in the social management of the economy and the state
11.       The university, workers, and social movements: Debates over methodologies and practices of mutual construction

Organizational structure for the IV International Meeting “The Economy of the Workers”
The IV International Meeting will take place 9th-12th July, 2013 with morning and afternoon sessions, and will be open to the public.  There will be plenary sessions and workshops with the presentation of papers, videoconferencing, and a final plenary session with discussion and conclusions

Organizing Committee:
Incubator for Social Enterprises (INCUBES) Fedeal University of Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil; Department of Social Relations of the Autonomous Metropolitan University-Xochimilco, Mexico; Programa Facultad Abierta (Open Faculty Program), Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Abstract submission deadline for papers: 22 April 2013
Notification of approved presentations: 2 May 2013
Final papers submission deadline: 30 June 2013

Please send abstracts for presentations to the following emails:

English: - Marcelo Vieta (Research Fellow, European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (EURICSE), Trento, Italy, and York University, Toronto, Canada)                   
Portuguese: - Mauricio Sardá (Coordinator of the Incubadora de Empreendimentos Solidários, Universidade Federal da Paraiba, Brazil)
centrodoc@gmailcom - Documentation Centre of Worker-Recuperated Enterprises, Open Faculty Program, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina - Andrés Ruggeri (Director, Open Faculty Program) - Marco Augusto Gómez Solórzano (Director, Labor Studies, UAM-Xochimilco, Mexico)

For more information on the International Gathering of the Workers’ Economy, including previous meetings in 2007, 2009 and 2011:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mayor to take salary in Bristol pounds

Mayor to take salary in Bristol pounds

George Ferguson, Bristol mayor
George Ferguson on election night. Photograph: Rod Minchin/PA
On his first day in office the new independent mayor of Bristol rebranded the Council House, scrapped a parking measure brought in only a few weeks ago and announced he would take his salary in the city's local currency.
George Ferguson, who beat 14 candidates to become mayor, also revealed on Monday that the hole in the city council's budget was £32m – £4m greater than he had expected. Ferguson said he would work with anybody who could come up with a clever way of finding the savings needed without harming services.
Ferguson's first decision of his three-and-a-half year tenure was to scrap the name Council House and replace it with City Hall. At his swearing-in ceremony at Temple Meads station, he said the new name showed that the building and the work that went on inside it belonged to the people of Bristol, not to the mayor or the councillors.
Ferguson, wearing his trademark bright red trousers, also revealed that he was scrapping charges for on-street parking on Sundays. He said that from next year he would look at making parts of the city traffic-free on the first Sunday of every month, as happens in Bristol's twin city, Bordeaux.
To applause, Ferguson said he wanted to move fast. He did not want to commission expensive surveys or report on initiatives. "Let's just do it and see how it turns out," he said.
Of his salary – currently £51,000, though the figure could change – Ferguson said he would take it in Bristol pounds, a currency introduced this year and proving a success.
Thanking the voters for entrusting him with the "ultimate project", Ferguson said Bristol had a minor link to London but a more important link to the rest of the world. "We are a proud provincial city," he said. "We are pretty self-contained and we are independent."
Ferguson will try to form a rainbow cabinet with councillors from the political parties he defeated in last week's elections. He said he had already had positive talks with the leaders of all four parties on the city council.
He accepted there would be tough times ahead and revealed that at his first meeting on Monday he was told the hole in the budget was up to £32m. "We've got to be really clever," he said. "I will work with anybody who can find ways to deliver the services. I come with absolutely no dogma about how we do it. What matters is that we do it."
Ferguson completed his speech by asking everyone present to join him as he took the oath made by young men of Athens when they became citizens: "I shall not leave this city any less but rather greater than I found it."

Friday, February 8, 2013

A New Era: From Occupation to Workers' Control

02.06.13, 9:44am 
Republic Windows and Doors workers celebrate their first victorious occupation in 2008

This week, Strike Debt tweeted out triumphantly: “It’s a new era. First machine fired up at worker owned factory. #NewEraWindowsandDoors”. For those of us who’ve been following news about the Chicago factory formerly known as Republic Windows and Doors, this was the culmination of years of struggle. It’s an exciting moment, and a victory which hopefully can inspire other factories across the country.

Though the factory had been making windows and doors since 1965, our story starts in 2008 with the financial crisis and the actions of Bank of America. Despite having received billions in tax dollars, Bank of America (and other major banks) spent much of 2008 cutting off struggling small businesses or businesses with low returns—not because they couldn’t afford to lend to them, but to improve their balance sheets. Republic Windows and Doors lost their credit line in late 2008 (just a few days after BOA received $25 billion in bailout money) and summarily fired their 250 workers in three days, without either the 60 days notice or the 60 days severance required by the WARN act.

A common story, perhaps, but at Republic Windows and Doors the workers didn’t acquiesce. Instead, in December of 2008, they occupied the factory for six days, bringing major national news coverage, and won their severance. It’s important to remember that in 2008, occupation was seen more as a labor action from the 30s then a common tactic for protest on the left.

In February 2009, the plant was purchased by Serious Energy, and reopened, with many of the workers returning to their previous union contracts. It seemed like a major victory, and things went well at the factory for a time. But then, in February of 2012, sudden closure was again announced, this time by the new bosses. Once again, workers rallied to the factory, this time with a big wave of support from Occupy Chicago, and though their occupation only lasted 11 hours, they won fair severance pay once more.

But now, rather than wait for another boss to just repeat the cycle, the workers are taking control of the factory. In May of 2012, they incorporated as a democratically run worker-owned cooperative, and they’ve begun purchasing the machinery in the factory bit by bit. They have the support of their union, the United Electrical Workers, as well as the micro-finance solidarity economy organization Working World.

Read more here:

Job Opportunity: COLORS Co-Op Academy Coordinator

COLORS Co-Op Academy Coordinator
Location: Detroit, MI
Type of Job: Full-Time, Permanent

The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-Michigan) seeks a dynamic and entrepreneurial individual with deep ties to the food justice and worker cooperative movements who can play a leadership role in founding a COLORS Co-Op Academy for emerging, worker-owned good food businesses in Detroit. The COLORS Co-Op Academy is an intensive learning experience designed to cultivate new worker-owned good food businesses rooted in principles of democracy, sustainability, and justice. The COLORS Co-Op Academy will serve as a model to inform the launch of similar COLORS cooperative incubators around the country. We envision a community-based economy in which all people are contributing with dignity, respect, and ownership. We work towards this vision by developing worker cooperatives grounded in the leadership, resources, and needs of communities most affected by social and economic injustice. By linking our actions with movements for worker, food, and racial justice, we collectively re-imagine and transform our workplaces, communities, and local economies.

Organizational Background:
Founded in 2008 and based in Detroit, MI, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-Michigan) is a non-profit, membership-based organization of over 1,000 restaurant workers. We are an affiliate of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United), a national restaurant workers’ organization founded in New York City by restaurant workers displaced by the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy. We are dedicated to improving working conditions and increasing opportunities for advancement in restaurants nationwide for the collective benefit of workers, employers, and consumers. We take a three-pronged approach to achieving change in the restaurant industry that includes: (1) campaigning for workplace justice; (2) conducting community-based research and policy work, and (3) promoting the ‘high-road’ to profitability through innovative employer partnerships, workforce development programs, and our family of COLORS Restaurant social enterprises. In ten years, ROC has become the nation’s leading restaurant worker organization. More information can be found at: and

Job Responsibilities Include:
Leading the COLORS Co-Op Academy
o Developing and ensuring continuous improvement of a COLORS Co-Op Academy curriculum developed in partnership with Cooperation Texas, an Austin-based cooperative incubator program;
o Conducting outreach with community-based partners and allies to recruit Co-Op Academy participants;
o Facilitating Co-Op Academy participant workshops in workplace democracy, food justice, and business development, as well as peer-to-peer learning sessions;
o Coordinating support services for participants, including legal and marketing assistance, mentoring
opportunities, post-graduation coaching, and micro-loans

Supporting overall organizational and program growth
o Developing and maintaining relationships with key Co-Op Academy local and national partners including: ROC-United, Cooperation Texas, Community Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), Fair Food Network, the Urban Communities Clinic, local community colleges, and Jackie Victor, co-founder of Avalon International Breads;
o Planning and implementing program communications and marketing;

Attending cooperative conferences and building relationships with movement leaders;
Participating in a formal evaluation to identify best practices for scaling the local model nationally;
Innovating programs to leverage and/or create organizational synergies between the Co-Op Academy
and our non-profit COLORS Restaurants

Intensively coaching and supporting the development of worker-owned, good food enterprises in Detroit
o Providing intensive cooperative and business consultation, based on the developmental stage of each incubated cooperative, to up to three student teams who will be enrolled in the Co-Op Academy per year, as well as providing post-graduation coaching services;
o Playing a leading role in working with local and national staff and allies to assess the feasibility and
possible launch of a COLORS Co-Op Academy ‘teaching enterprise’ that would incorporate cooperative leadership principles

Required Skills and Qualifications:
-Willingness and motivation to play a founding role in launching a good food cooperative incubator that will be shaping the development of a national program;
- Strong background in worker-cooperative business development or the equivalent;
- Management experience in a food enterprise or the equivalent;
- Excellent verbal and written communication, including proficiency with Microsoft Word, Excel, Email, Internet and social media;
- Ability to work effectively with diverse populations, including Academy participants, customers, and allies;
- Ability to work flexible hours, including evenings and weekends based on Academy participants’ schedules;
- Strong commitment to movement-building and social, racial, economic, and food justice

Desired Qualifications:
- Knowledge of and/or experience with popular education;
- A strong background or interest in worker and/or community organizing and/or economic development;
- Spanish-language proficiency;
- Culinary background and/or familiarity with food production;
- Commitment to grow with the organization

People of color and women are encouraged to apply. We are willing to consider applicants from outside Southeast Michigan who are willing to relocate to metro Detroit for this position.

Starting salary of $35,000 is negotiable based on experience. Featured benefits include generous paid time off as well as health insurance.

How to Apply:
Please send a (1) resume and (2) cover letter as soon as possible to and include “Co-Op Academy Coordinator” in the subject line of your email.

Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, 311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48226
Attn: Minsu Longiaru, Executive Director, (313) 962-5020