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Spring Symposium on UR and Community Engagement has ended
Tuesday, April 24 • 10:15am - 10:35am
The Transformative Power Of Worker-Owned Cooperatives

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As their membership and political power continues to decline, labor unions are struggling to fight the growing issues of income inequality, precarious work, and economic insecurity. The current failure of unions to ignite progressive change for the working class has turned more attention toward the idea of worker-owned cooperatives, in which businesses are structured and ran democratically and collectively. Research since the emergence of the cooperative model has largely focused on the economic potential of worker owned businesses. However, there are still many questions as to how worker ownership can be expanded, and what benefits that will bring to labor reform. This study concerns the transformative power within worker-cooperatives in terms of what kinds of social change they can provide to contemporary labor movements, as well as the economic and political reforms that are necessary to ignite a larger cooperative movement. By examining case studies of a variety of cooperatives in North Carolina, as well as qualitative interviews with cooperative employees, this research will answer questions of how cooperatives empower workers, what organizational and formative challenges are presented for these firms, and how co-ops can be a force for broader progressive change. Preliminary findings suggest that cooperatives can be a positive force for remedying issues of income inequality and employment insecurity, while simultaneously changing our relationship with labor. Moreover the cooperative structure has the potential to create businesses that provide community and social services largely unseen within many conventional firms. Nevertheless, cooperatives still face specific disadvantages within the marketplace, requiring large scale economic and policy reforms.

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 10:15am - 10:35am
236 Zageir Hall