The Workers' Paradise A Discussion of Workers Cooperatives and Building the New Economy

March 31, 2011

Paul Soglin for Mayor of Madison

Filed under: Movement — Tags: , , , — John McNamara @ 7:47 pm

I don’t come by this decision lightly. Madison is fortunate to have two incredibly able people running for the office of Mayor. Paul Soglin has served as Mayor for 14 years in two separate stints. Dave Cieslewicz is the incumbent has eight years of service—most of which has been good. I personally like both men and in normal circumstances might have simply flipped a coin in the voting booth. This is a very, very tough decision for me.

It is important for co-operators, for people who believe in co-operation, to cast their vote for Paul Soglin.

In this election, I am a single-issue candidate. We need a new economy. There are so many minor little  issues that might separate the candidates, but there is only one major difference. Regardless of how the Battle of Wisconsin plays out, we cannot and should not revert to the status quo of 2010. I want the economy to be as democratic, equitable and fair as our democratic values.

I want a Mayor who understands that Madison can be the model for the United States. We can create a new economy here. We can show the world that we don’t need multi-nationals to prosper, we don’t need big developers coming in. We don’t need billionaires bestowing their kindness on us. We need us. We need to invest in ourselves. We need co-operatives. We need small businesses. Imagine if the City of Madison invested $16 million dollars in creating worker co-operatives (like it did with the Edgewater hotel)? We could create permanent living wage jobs in humane and democratic workplaces.

We won’t be breaking new ground. The Trento and Emiliano-Romagnolo provinces of Italy have economies that are based on co-operation. Most communities in Trento only have credit unions (no banks) and only have grocery co-ops. The Co-operative in Trento is the dominant economic model, not capitalism.

I think that US co-ops need to quit hiding their light under a bushel. We need to push our economic model forward and we need to make our economic model a campaign issue. Part of that effort means that we need to insert our movement into the mainstream political campaigns. Amazingly, we did that in Madison in 2011!

This is needed for our growth. Madison, as a community, should be the “low hanging fruit” for worker co-operatives. If we can’t build our movement here (and in like-minded communities such as Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Western Mass. and Berkeley) then we will never make this a national movement. The fact is that as much as Madison looks to Portland, other midwest cities (such as my hometown, Toledo, Ohio) look to Madison.

Both Mayoral candidates spoke of worker co-ops during the early days of the campaign, which I can guarantee is a first for Madison (if not every US city). However, it was Paul Soglin who kept talking about co-ops. When Paul appeared on Brenda Konkel’s A Public Affair program*, she asked for questions. Enough of us in the co-op community asked about co-ops that it surprised Brenda and was the second question on her show. This created a really rare call-and-response dynamic in the campaign. The more Paul started talking about co-ops, the more electors started asking about co-ops.

Paul made a promise: if he is elected Mayor, he will call a City-Wide Conference of Co-operatives. This conference of all of the City’s co-operatives will discuss how to re-shape Madison’s economy.

This is incredible! He said this  at the Barrymore theater debate and repeated it at the Co-ops for Labor rally on March 26th. Paul Soglin is willing to at least put co-operatives on the table. Having the Mayor bring us to conference with City staff, managers and planners in attendance could be the initial spark to true paradigm shift in the manner and the method of economic development in Madison. Rather than focusing on attracting multi-nationals or keeping large corporations, we can build a sustainable economy. We can become the Trento, the Emiliano-Romagnolo the Mondragon of the United States. This will take more work than simply electing Paul Soglin, however, Soglin at least is open to it. Having a Mayor who gets worker co-ops and co-ops in general will help us build the foundation of a new, revolutionary economy. We can and will hold him accountable to this because he has proposed it.

If you live in the City of Madison, please join me in voting FOR Paul Soglin for Mayor of Madison and then work like hell to keep him accountable. If he loses, work like hell to make Dave realize co-ops are a good idea.

And also remember to vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg for Supreme Court, Joe Parisi for County Executive and those of you in the 6th District for Marsha Rummel for Alder.
*you can access this episode on iTunes: search for the WORT A Public Affair Tuesday 3/8/11 edition.

2 Comments »

  1. Hey I wish I could become a resident of Madison and vote for Paul. But I an stuck here in Berkeley where the co-ops are thriving but with no help from the local Democrat Party Machine which is a lapdog to the land speculators and developers (sic).

    But neither you nor I need to look to Italy for a model when we have Cleveland and Richmond, CA. What? Richmond?

    Yes, the mayor of that city just north of Berkeley visited Mondragon last September and came back enthusiastic about co-operative development in her city. Several meetings of local residents and SF area worker co-op members and developers have already occurred and projects are on the way. Richmond is approximately the same size as Madison, but a much poorer community, and so if they can pull together with limited resources imagine what Madison can do.

    One last point, the last time I was in Madison I got a royal tour of the “Beer Community,” and so I know that for some people the model for immediate development might be Austin TX and the Black Star Co-op. Check out their amazing co-op Brew Pub: http://www.blackstar.coop/

    Bernard Marszalek, Editor of “The Right to be Lazy: Essays by Paul Lafargue”
    http://righttobelazy.com/

    Comment by Bernard Marszalek — April 2, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

  2. […] repeated. One candidate engaged in the call-and-response which is why I urged co-op members to vote for Paul Soglin. Paul won by just 363 votes or about 182 voters (less than the total number of worker co-op members […]

    Pingback by The Madison Conference « The Workers' Paradise — May 21, 2012 @ 9:40 am

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