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Forum Post: Workplace Democracy - Richard Wolff & Gar Alperovitz at Left Forum 2013

Posted 7 years ago on July 23, 2013, 3:16 p.m. EST by struggleforfreedom80 (6584)
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[-] 2 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3360) from New York, NY 7 years ago

Here is another Gar Alperovitz lecture

He starts that lecture by saying, "We don't have an economic problem in the United States...The current economy produces $200,000 for every family of 4...We have a political problem managing the richest economy in the world."

This is something I always point out.

Everyone in the US in 2012 should be wealthy. We produce $15.4 trillion in goods and services every year.

That is just under $50,000 per year for every man, woman and child. That is $200,000 per year for a family of 4. That is $65 per hour for each hour every worker works. That is $135,000 per year for every full-time worker.

No matter how you slice it, that is clearly enough income to make everyone in this country wealthy.

The reason why nearly everyone gets paid far, far less than those incomes is because we have an economic system that allows a very small group of people at the top to use exploitation to unfairly take most of everyone else's income.


So the problem isn't production. The problem is how we allocate income. The solution that I, the OP, Wolff and Alperovitz advocate is to give workers equal, democratic ownership of the companies that they work at.

When everyone is an equal owner, they are not going to give most of their income to only a couple of the owners and leave everyone else broke. Income would instead be allocated in a way that limits differences in income to only what's necessary for income to be an effective incentive.

At Mondragon, the most well known labor owned cooperative (it is 50 years old, has 100,000 workers, consists of 250 companies, and does $15 billion per year), the top earner makes no more than 8 times what the bottom worker makes.

If we had that kind of system in the US, and paid the top worker 10 times more than the bottom worker, workers in the US would make from $100,000 to $1 million per year which I explain here.


Alperovitz also makes the important point that Mondragon and the thousands of labor owned cooperatives in the US are examples of elements of change, but they are not a change in the system. In order to realize the full benefit of worker owned enterprises, they need to operate within a worker owned economic system.

The next step to take is to implement that system. I believe the way to do that is to get the Fed to fund new labor owned firms.

The Fed could provide enough investment funds to launch enough new labor owned companies to fully employ everyone who wants to work in one. When lending out this money, the fed should just make 2 simple requirements: you would have to make every worker you hire an equal owner and you would have to participate in the revenue sharing plan.

This would make it so workers were equal owners not just in the company that they worked at but in the entire network of labor owned firms. This would eliminate inequality between firms. This would also eliminate workers having to risk their own personal funds. And this would plug every new company into a network of willing buyers to ensure their best chance at success.


Alperovitz also says we need a movement once we are able to clearly communicate what it is we want to do.

I think that message should be:

  • that we want to get the fed to provide just as much money to democratic firms as it does to capitalist firms
  • this will give workers the freedom to choose whether they want to work for a capitalist firm or a democratic firm
  • competition is good and this will force the capitalist sector to have to compete with the democratic sector for workers; capitalism currently has a monopoly on the world economic system
  • the benefits of working at a labor owned firm is a minimum income of over $100,000 per year and a work week of 20 hours as explained here

That is a winning political message. That will recruit enough people to make this happen.

And all we need to do is get people to elect candidates who agree to do one simple thing: Authorize the fed to fund the democratic sector to the same degree it has funded the capitalist sector.

That will revolutionize the world.