Own The Change: Building Workplace Democracy One Worker Cooperative At A Time

You cannot be what you cannot see, they say.

We all saw an economy in crisis a few years ago. Now, in between fear of another crash and pain in a supposed recovery, many Americans are frustrated.

Last year, researchers with the Pew Center found that 78 percent of Americans believe that too much power is concentrated in a few huge companies. Sixty two percent believe our current economic system is rigged in favor of the most powerful.

But what else is possible? At GRITtv we’ve always been most curious about that. What can everyday people do, not just to survive in the world we know, with its poverty, pollution, and war, but to create one with the real food, good fellowship and rewarding livelihoods that make life fabulous?

Worker-owned cooperatives, where workers are offered a share in the company and a say in decision-making are one way to redistribute economic power. The successful ones have a good track record of reducing inequality and building local asset. But co-ops aren’t easy, and they aren’t for everybody.

A year ago, GRITtv and TESA, the Toolbox for Education and Social Action teamed up to look more closely at what it takes for a worker-owned cooperative to succeed. The result is Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time a short documentary featuring conversations with worker-owners from Union Cab; Ginger Moon; Arizmendi Bakery, New Era Windows; and more.

Own the Change gives an overview of what a worker co-op is, how it can transform lives and communities, and the realities of starting one. In addition to the film, we have created a series of educational resources to be used alongside this documentary. Interested?

Just as people creating co-operatives are trying to do business differently, we believe in doing media differently. Would building democracy and working together be easier if our media gave us as many visions of people collaborating as they do of people competing? What if we were encouraged to participate as much we are pushed to purchase? And what if we measured prosperity not by how high we could pile up resources, but how widely we could spread them out? Would our heroes not to mention our politicians look different?

Just maybe.