Building the Third Way

There are not many blogs on the Internet which specialize on the issues of economic democracy or workers self management on the internet. However Larry Hellar’s blog
Building the Third Way: Economic Democracy for the New Millennium is one that consistently  and effectively does. The blog covers issues in the news  from the perspective of both socialism and economic democracy which in his world view is  the essential building block of socialism. He also periodically shares biographical information about some of the often, not well known  and better known greats of the historical workers’ cooperative movements. Finally he often attempts to deal with the problems of capitalism as a system.
Enough of an introduction. People can examine Building the Third Way for themselves. Its link is
However I do want to introduce a few of the recent posts from the blog. The first is a recent article on the historic October 2009 agreement between the United Steel Workers and the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation to agree to mutually support the development of worker owned firms that would give workers jobs that would not be at the continued mercy of the fluctuation of capital and short term profit making of most of America’s present corporations in financial institutions.
Contrary to the claims of many, most unions (at least in the last 50 years) aren’t anti-capitalist. They’re more than happy to always be what one might call the “loyal opposition.” As long as they’re outsiders they can rant and rave against management while always sounding pro-worker but never, ever, sounding like they opposed capitalism. Most unions are been quick to disavow any idea that the workers themselves should own and manage the shops and factories. The majority of unions are content with negotiating for better pay and more benefits. Sure, there are a few, like the International Workers of the World (IWW), that go beyond but they’re the exception and not the rule.

Finally, there now seems to be a change for one union.

In October of 2009 the United Steelworkers Union announced they were collaborating with the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC) of Spain to explore increasing the number of worker-owned cooperatives here in the US.
According to the USW International President Leo W. Gerard, “We see today’s agreement as a historic first step towards making union co-ops a viable business model that can create good jobs, empower workers, and support communities in the United States and Canada.” He went on to say, “Too often we have seen Wall Street hollow out companies by draining their cash and assets and hollowing out communities by shedding jobs and shuttering plants. We need a new business model that invests in workers and invests in communities.”
(Source: SolidarityEconomy.Org)

The MCC President of Mondragron Internacional, Josu Ugarte, stated: “What we are announcing today represents a historic first–combining the world’s largest industrial worker cooperative with one of the world’s most progressive and forward-thinking manufacturing unions to work together so that our combined know-how and complimentary visions can transform manufacturing practices in North America. We feel inspired to take this step based on our common set of values with the Steelworkers who have proved time and again that the future belongs to those who connect vision and values to people and put all three first.”

There’s simply no way to predict what will come out of this collaboration. As I mentioned in my blog entry of March 30th there is also the Cleveland Model in which several cooperatives haven been formed. One can hope that maybe, just maybe, that collaboration between MCC and the USW along with the Cleveland Model are examples that the dream of an economic democracy is starting to become more than just a dream.

Public Sector Unions under Attack

To me, this is a pretty tricky issue. I think this paragraph from the article sums up my opinion:

“At a time when many private sector workers have been badly squeezed by stagnant wages, soaring health care premiums and shrinking 401(k)’s, resentment has grown even among private sector union members toward the public employee unions”

Mind you, I don’t know what it’s like with some of the powerful unions that seem so prevalent in the north…perhaps things have reached the point of crisis, but as a state employee (North Carolina) I’m looking at my third year without an annual raise or pay increase of any sort. We don’t have any collective bargaining rights. Our state employee pension system is constantly being tinkered with, and we’re facing what’s become an annual specter of furloughs, hiring freezes, reductions in operating hours, reductions in staff and services, etc. etc. In short, everything we get in the way of pay or benefits is at the mercy of the whims of our legislators. Continue reading

ON THE MEDIA Fawns Over Sweatshop-Loving Kristof

This article by Jeff Ballinger is reprinted from the Huffington Post with Jeff’s permission.

On the Media with Brooke Gladstone in the anchor chair is always a good deal more than a diversion while cleaning the garage or running weekend errands; she explores many topics that are otherwise not covered, or didn’t even appear as problems, opportunities, &c. But, when you do an interview with someone like Nick Kristof — whose audience dwarfs your own — you ought to be especially prepared to “afflict the comfortable.” She needn’t have searched too long to find controversy in this man’s last decade of columns and, no, it is not because he practices “advocacy journalism” unless — and here’s the point — he’s advocating for sweatshops. Continue reading