Reshowing of "Shift Change"

SUBHEAD: Take a glimpse into an alternative and horizontally controlled democratic economic system.

By Sandra Herndon on 14 August 2013 in Island Breath  -

Image above: Detail of poster for "Shift Change" Click for full enlargement.

Presenting movie "Shift Change"
Free Admission - Q & A after film presentation

 Saturday January 18, 2014 at 6:30pm

Waimea Neighborhood Center
4556 Makeke Road
Waimea, HI 96796

Fred Dente
Phone 808-651-2815   

The event is presented by Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice.

The Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice will be showing SHIFT CHANGE at the Storybook Theatre in Hanapepe on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 @ 6:30pm.  There will be community input and discussion afterward. 

The movie documents successful worker-owned cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain, and in San Francisco, and other American cities.  It presents the case that everyday working class people can take greater control of their lives and livelyhoods by being part of the ownership and democratic management of their workplaces.  It has long been a utopian dream of the working class to have more control and a consensus vote in how our labor and skills are utilized and how how we are paid for that labor.

That progressive model is working today in the Basque region of Spain and in many other locations around the world.  It seems to follow that local cooperative ownership of businesses here on Kaua`i could be a great way to sustainably support ourselves into the near future, and for generations to come.  Co-ops could provide a great solution to the question of how to help provide meaningful and safe and gainful employment for the chemical/seed company employees, when and if those mega corporations leave these shores.

And, co-operative ownership of all other types of businesses could help get us off the dependency on barging in practically everything we consume, and the giant global companies who employ us, and flying most of the profits off to corporate headquarters and stockholders on Turtle Island.  Let's keep the fruits of our labor here in our own backyard, just like the Home Rule of our politics.  

Please come and take a glimpse into an alternative, very promising and horizontally controlled democratic economic system, which exists today in other places, and which could exist tomorrow on our economically challenging island of Beautiful Kauai.


By Richard Smaby on 7 February 2013 for the Pierce Progressive

Video above: Trailer for "Shift Change". From (

"Shift Change" the movie suggests a direction for positive change in our business world—worker cooperatives and workplace democracy. It interviews worker-owners from thriving cooperative businesses in the U.S. and Spain. On Feb. 6 Shift Change producer Melissa Young and director Mark Dworkin from Whidbey Island attended a screening of their film at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma, together with Alison Booth, who appears in the film as manager of the Equal Exchange Espresso Bar in Ballard. They answered questions from a packed audience.

The documentary starts with some of the most successful examples of democratic cooperatives—the Mondragon cooperatives in Basque Spain. These are very large and successful businesses that are changing the whole Basque community. The cooperative businesses established a cooperative investment bank and a highly respected research university embedding the values of cooperatives in the fabric of the university experience. The citizen on the street has a connection to cooperative business.

It then moves to examples from Cleveland, Madison, San Francisco, and Massachusetts. Cleveland hosts a number of worker cooperatives under the Evergreen Cooperatives umbrella. Evergreen Cooperative Laundry is an industrial laundry serving local hospitals, hotels, and other institutions. Ohio Cooperative Solar sells to and services Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, City of Cleveland, and the Cleveland Housing Network.

An key aspect of Evergreen Cooperatives’ success is the support it receives from the Cleveland community. Madison, Wisconsin hosts Union Cab Cooperative and Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing. San Francisco has Arizmendi Bakery. West Bridgewater, Massachusetts has Equal Exchange.

Workers interviewed in the film stressed that a worker owned cooperative requires an extra commitment by its worker owners. Democratic governance requires meeting together to design the work process and to decide policy.

People who simply want to work 9 to 5 and pick up a paycheck are not well suited to such a cooperative. In all these cooperatives the workers, including the managers, express excitement about  creating something together. It can be stressful to argue and compromise.

But it is a stress that promises positive things. Some workers appreciate the promise. Worker members prefer this stress over the stress of working a job where you have little or no say about what you are assigned to do.

The documentary inspired the audience to action. People were excited to start their own democratic worker cooperatives. One member of the audience asked where she could get help; she has plans for starting two cooperatives. Alison Booth recommended the Northwest Cooperative Development Center in Olympia. Another resource is the Democracy At Work Network (DAWN), a network of certified peer advisors, who provide online technical assistance services to worker cooperatives.
Another member of the audience asked Alison Booth how one could start a worker owned cooperative. She repeated principles described in the film.
  • There must be a committed core group willing to devote themselves to the business.
  • They must have a solid business plan and do a feasibility study. They have to figure out how to make money. It is not enough to have a group that enjoys being together.
  • They will need a consultant and all the help they can get.

Alison Booth pointed out that there are many versions of cooperatives and worker ownership; not all of them involve all their members in all decisions. But even cooperatives that have hierarchical management require that all members are involved in major decisions like relocation and that all decisions by management are transparent.

One questioner related his father’s experience with the plywood cooperatives being eliminated by the big corporations and suggested that the law favored the big non-cooperative companies. Melissa Young and Alison Booth pointed out that each state makes its own laws affecting cooperatives.;

California law, for instance, assumes that managers and employees are adversaries, which makes it difficult for cooperatives to establish their legal status as a democratic worker cooperative. 
On the other hand, Wisconsin has laws favorable to cooperatives. Unlike commercial banks credit unions are limited to loaning only a small fraction of their assets to businesses, which limits their ability to support cooperative businesses.
The Small Business Administration historically was not allowed to lend to cooperatives. But beginning two years ago it has been aiding cooperatives in a variety of ways.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Presentation of "Shift Change" 9/15/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Premier of "Shift Change" 6/5/13

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