Worker Cooperatives in NYC – Better Knowing the Workers Behind the Food

The Great Recession caused many businesses and workers to reconsider how they do business. One of the rediscovered tools for economic empowerment is worker cooperatives. San Francisco may lead the country in terms of worker cooperatives but recent legislative changes in New York may help incubate more worker owned cooperatives. Chris Michael, a lawyer, and doctoral candidate at CUNY is a founding director of the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives. He joins us along with Jeremy Shannon, an architect and founder of a design-build firm called “Build with Prospect.” Shannon, with Michael’s guidance, recently transitioned his company to a worker cooperative. We’ll learn how worker cooperatives can be good for business and for workers. Then, we hear about a report developed by Brandworkers which details the working conditions for the people who make our food. Lawrence Goun is a student at the Cornell Institute for Labor Relations and Diana Marino is an organizer with Brandworkers. They’ll tell us about the report and give their perspectives on the work of food production in New York.

Worker Cooperatives in New York City

Worker CooperativesWorker cooperatives provide a unique opportunity for workers to take ownership and make crucial decisions along with the CEO to run the companies they work for. This concept was initially developed in Basque region of Spain, but there are plenty of viable examples of worker cooperatives right in New York City. Chris Michael, Esq. explains how the legal structure is developing to support worker cooperatives. This, he argues, helps workers share in the profits of the company which in turn reduces the headaches for management. Jeremy Shannon, an architect and contractor, relates his first-hand experience of transitioning from primary owner to being a share-holder/worker in his design-build firm. We learn how this has impacted the overall success of the company and how Shannon works with the employee/shareholders to make the serious decisions that affect the business and their livelihoods. It sure beats having to act alone.

Better Knowing the Workers Behind the Food

BrandworkersBrandworkers is a not-for-profit that supports workers in food manufacturing , through research and advocacy. They recently developed a report, in collaboration with the Urban Justice Center, called “Feeding New York” which documents the challenges and opportunities facing New York workers in the food industry, the majority of whom are non-unionized. Our guests Lawrence Goun, a student at Cornell ILR who works with Brandworkers, and Diana Marina, a Brandworkers organizer tell us about the burgeoning food industry in New York and its ongoing contribution to the New York economy. Handcrafted products as fresh artisanal bread, free of chemicals, cannot be outsourced to remote areas, which tends to support a proliferation of small food manufacturing facilities throughout the City.

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